Collision 2012, Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America, by Dan Balz

Book summary and description:

A total of approximately $2 Billion was spent on the 2012 general election, in which the president defeated his Republican challenger by about 5 percentage points nationwide, as President Obama won most of the so-called battleground states, especially Ohio and Wisconsin.

Balz, a reporter for the Washington Post newspaper, tells the story of the 2012 election, starting out with the specter of bad news for the Romney camp on election night as they entered their hotel in Boston to listen to and view the results, and then going back to before Romney even decided to run for president.

Both party narratives tell us much about the state of election politics in the age of Twitter and Facebook (instead of hearing debate results on the news wires, both camps were sitting on Twitter feeds, with blow by blow analysis from people as various as Chris Christie to Bill Maher).  Romney had a family gathering of ten people and took a vote as to whether or not he would become a candidate.  Romney voted “no,” but was outvoted 8 to 2 by other family members (his wife, Ann, voted yes), the eight being in favor of him running for president.  Romney’s initial reluctance came from experience, having joined the 2008 primaries.  He knew what kind of a grind primary politics was.  I suspect he was also a bit fearful of comparisons, as there were, between the Massachusetts health care reform, which he had passed during his tenure as governor, and Obamacare.  The drafters of the bill in Congress drew from the Massachusetts law (the drafters no doubt being, not congressmen or women, heaven forbid, but lobbyists and lawyers for the insurance industry), and Romney was fearful that his voter base would be alienated on hearing that the Obamacare they hated so much and wanted to repeal piece by piece, if not outright, came basically from Romney’s gubernatorial era.  As readers will recall, as soon as the health care reform bill was passed, the Tea Party and others, whipped into a racist frenzy by outlets such as Fox News and The Weekly Standard, were already making plans for its repeal, including the filing of lawsuits.

Another not-so-publicized fear might have been the fact that Romney was a multi-millionaire, in the hundreds of millions, and had little in common with the middle class of America, who were struggling to keep their jobs and to put food on their tables and send their children to school or to college.  This did play a significant factor in people’s opinions about Romney:  owner of a Swiss bank account and offshore accounts in the Caribbean, Romney’s company, Bain Capital, was known as the “pioneer of outsourcing” American jobs to foreign countries; the company bought companies at risk and then sold them off at tremendous profit, but often at the cost of long-time American workers.

Obama, almost from day one of his first term in office, began to put together plans for 2012.  The Democratic machine was vast, well-funded, and loaded with numbers crunchers and voter analysis.  They had boots on the ground right down to the neighborhood level, and they used many if not most of the same volunteers for 2012.  If you were mailed a ballot for absentee voting, for example, and did not return it within, say, two weeks, the Obama people would knock on your door and see if they could help with any questions or concerns.  If you told them you had just mailed the ballot off, you would never hear from them again, not a phone call, not a mailing.  That was how precise and efficient the campaign was in keeping in touch with the voter base and getting the vote out on election night.

I have said before in these blogs that if the Christian base of about 75 per cent of the American people all voted Republican, no Republican would ever lose the race for president again:  you just can’t beat 75 per cent of the vote.  But not all of that 75 per cent are voters.  Not all liked the fact that Romney was a Mormon, which is actually more of a cult than a mainstream religion.  Not all of them liked the fact that Romney flip-flopped on the topic of reproductive rights, once for, now against.

Obama knew that all he and his campaign had to do was make sure that the Democratic base made it to the polls and he would win; there are slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the U.S.  In addition, if he could get the unemployment rate down from over 10 per cent (and he did, with unemployment running at just under 8 per cent by election day), he could tell voters that he had a handle on the economy, that the economy didn’t need any help from a filthy rich Mormon pretty boy.  Which Romney was, and still is.

While the first half of the book focuses on the two campaigns, how they were built up, who was in charge of what, what the Republican primaries did to or for Romney, the last half focuses on the presidential debates.  Romney won the first, Obama probably the last two.  Romney had a bit of bad luck right before the election.  Not taking anything away from the harm and hurt suffered by residents of the East Coast as Hurricane Sandy whipped through several states, the hurricane provided President Obama with a last great chance to be presidential, visiting hard-hit areas and hanging out with New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, who praised Obama effusively for the job he did in the hurricane’s aftermath.

The book closes with a long interview with Mitt Romney by the author, going back over the campaign, including the primaries, and seeing what Romney thought about why he lost and how the Republicans can win in 2016.

If the Republicans have a problem going into 2016, it’s the fact that most non-whites vote Democratic and the GOP doesn’t really seem to care all that much about it.  It is still the conservative religious right party of the rich and super-rich, trickle-down Laffer Curve theory, opponents of abortion, contraception and gay unions, arrogant bible-thumping evangelicals who would just as soon have a Pope as a president.  Day after day, week after week, year after year they make the case against themselves for seizing the assets of the super-rich and re-distributing this country’s wealth.

The Death of Middle-Brow and the Dumbing Down of America

High brow:  living in Manhattan, going to gallery exhibits, shows or openings once a week, buying art from the best local artists, season-tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, front row, no televisions in the house except a small portable in the kitchen, shopping for antiques, going to art auctions, having authors who are in town for a book-signing come over for dinner; endless, relentless reading of books, newspapers and magazines.

Middle brow:  reading voraciously, especially the classics and the best of modern literature, subscribing to Art News, buying original prints by Dali and Vaserely and Rene Carcan, belonging to local art and music appreciation clubs, sitting around the fireplace taking turns reading A Christmas Carol during the holidays, listening to operas by Wagner and Puccini, which were played softly at dinner time while the family discussed the day’s events and plans for the future.

Middle brow, since the advent of television and the internet, is pretty much a dead dog.  Those Americans who weren’t either born into money or inherited it tried to be “High brow” on a smaller scale due to monetary limitations for the most part.  Chances are a middle brow couple did not even own a tuxedo or evening dress.  They had car and house loans and spent lots of money on their kids as they went through school.  But they at least made an attempt to experience some of the “finer” things in life:  art, music, literature.  And to pass some of that love on to their kids.

Radio had been in the house since the beginning, prior to televisions being introduced in the early Fifties.  There were some great shows on:  comedy, book readings, classical music and, of course, the news.  No one streamed a radio station through their cell phone; you had to go to the set, turn it on and adjust the tuning and volume.  Outside of reading and whatever else one found to do, radio was the only form of communication with the outside world other than the house phone, or getting in the car, on the bike or on the arches and actually going to visit someone.  You listened, you thought about what you heard, you collected information.

Television single-handedly killed all that part of American family life.  Instead of talking to one another at dinner, families rolled the television to where they could see it while they ate.  Instead of doing homework, kids watched television if their parents allowed them to (a major punishment in those days was “no TV tonight for you!”), and so it was Bewitched and Star Trek and Combat! instead of Shakespeare and  Edgar Allen Poe.  Instead of going out at night to the opera or theatre, parents stayed home to watch Peyton Place or Dr. Kildare.  Instead of buying and reading a newspaper or a news magazine, adults watched the nightly 5:30 news on CBS, NBC or CBS, and later, PBS.  Television was not only an additional baby sitter, it was the beginning of the doping of the American family.  Reading went down, television viewing went up.  While Marx might have been right in that religion was the “opiate of the masses,” television was the morphine.

There is no doubt that the decline in reading is the single most important factor in the dumbing down of America, especially its children.  And many children who don’t like the discipline of learning to read are not made to, and still are graduated from high schools across the country barely street sign-literate.  But there are other factors, not the least of which is the continuing technology for personal consumption:  the internet and computers, cell phones, video games.  All of these things demand attention (or so we think).  As a result there is less time for other things, such as reading, school work, exercising, spending time together as a family, going out and experiencing art and nature.  Our attention span is much shorter because the information we receive comes in short bites.  OCD and ADD are just two of the consequences of this; a major consequence is the inability to sit down and read for an extended period of time, much less finish a book.

I know kids who have NEVER IN THEIR LIVES read a book for pleasure; their young lives have been ruined because they preferred to do other things and were allowed to.  They may turn out to be successful, but for the most part they will become part of that great mass of worker bees that make our burgers, clean our clothes, fix our automobiles.  In an earlier blog I noted that this was exactly the intention of men like Ford and Rockefeller to reduce competition for themselves; their influence on the early public school system even went as far as choosing females to be teachers because it was felt they could not control male students.  This is not a paranoid conspiracy delusion of mine, look it up.

So what has happened to the former middle-brow parents and their families?  Those middle class households who have roughly the same amount of discretionary funds for leisure activity as the former “middle brow” families are now spending their time and their money in very different ways.  They have season tickets to college or professional sports.  They are NASCAR fans.  They are gun collectors and gun users; instead of spending a Saturday at home listening to the opera on Met radio, they go to a gun club and shoot or they go hunting.  The children spend ten to twelve hours per day on video games or watching movies with stars like Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, both of whom have yet to say a single thing I find particularly funny.  (All humor these days is visual and contextual:  if you just look funny that seems to be enough, because if you tell a joke there are chances not everyone will understand it.  It won’t be long before comedy movies are silent, again!)

Middle brow has been replaced by families who don’t just attend church on Sundays; they attend “church” every day by praying singly and together, by watching televangelists like Pat Robertson, by nurturing their friends and neighbors, by giving their hearts and thoughts to Jesus.  Can I get an “AMEN”?  They drench themselves in the irrational, spurning the intellectual pursuits the former Middle Brows embraced.  They fight for their kids to get vouchers so they can go to a Christian school, they want creationism taught to their children alongside or instead of evolution (just another theory, isn’t it?).  They go to church in a public school auditorium on Sundays because the Supreme Court ruled that such facilities must be made available, even though the vast majority of the time the only reason a free facility is needed is because the church has splintered off from another larger church due to arguments and disputes amongst the congregation (one side always has to be right, and if you’re not with us, you’re against us).  Right up there with animal rights groups, churches make more use of counsellors and dispute-resolution than any other kind of  group in the country, and when it doesn’t work, somebody leaves.

Such a family oftentimes plunges headlong into church activities.  Christianity is a cult and a crutch, a delusional ex-reality that webs such families in a death grip of wishful thinking and fantasy; reason and critical thinking are put aside, even spurned.  The psychological toll is devastating as the dream world grows and reality crumbles:  the churches not only take your money, and as much as they can get from you, they demand your time, time that used to be spent by middle brows on those things listed above, including reading anything and everything, time that used to be spent by the children learning science and math and physics and biology.  The U.S. now lags far behind even some undeveloped countries in the number of new scientists, mathematicians, and other highly trained and skilled workers, and mainly because children are no longer taught to read as much and as widely as they can and to excel as students.  It is enough if they are good Christian soldiers in the war against abortion, birth control, gay lifestyles and permissive morals, and it’s more than okay if they believe the earth is only 4000 years old or that people rise from the dead or that demons can fly into pigs.  Christians lead the fight against improving our environment or social problems because they believe that the world will end soon, as Christ will be returning yet again:  if this is true, why care?

The delusion of Christian faith, so widespread in America that we are a true anomaly in the civilized world, “spoils everything,” as Christopher Hitchens said.  It is spoiling our children from the moment they are able to listen, digesting the lies of a delusional deformity like the gruel we force down their fat, homely, spoiled little maws.  And it will eventually spoil our democracy, our republic, and our uniquely American way of life.

The former Middle Brow is the new bible-thumping, NASCAR-loving, gun-toting, Fox News-watching redneck.  It is a person who, instead of investing in his children uses his discretionary spending on the demands of the Religious Right.  It is a person who has given up on improving himself and his family intellectually and aesthetically.  It is a person who has given up on life because what is sought after most of all is a death that will bring us closer to the god we worship.  Religion is a cult of death and the death-wish, and the modern American Christian refuses to stand alone and be made a fool of:  everyone else has to make the same damn mistake…or else.  That is why you see religion moving into politics.

The death of middle brow is, after all, simply death itself, the embrace of the impossible and non-existent in exchange for the sacrifice of Abraham.

And once they infiltrate and take over the High Brows, we can kiss this pop stand good-bye.

A Murder in Wartime, by Jeff Stein

The Untold Story That Changed The Course of the Vietnam War” is the subtitle of this really well-written, meticulously-researched book about the killing of a suspected South Vietnamese double agent in 1969 by captains and colonels in the Green Berets, but with plenty of blame to go around, not least of which for the CIA, with whom deep cover special forces worked very closely.  The case eventually attracted the attention of most of Richard Nixon’s cabinet, including the departments of State, Defense, the Army and other armed services, and the Justice Department.

Thai Khac Chuyen, usually referred to as “Chuyen,” was a husband, son and the father of three children in Saigon.  He was recruited by special forces members to work in Cambodia as an agent, collecting information about North Vietnamese troops, who they were and what they were doing; he reported back to special forces team members and was paid in cash.  As you know, we weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia, and our presence there was based upon a lie by the president (Nixon) and his green-shirted helper (Henry Kissinger), who personally chose Cambodian targets to be hit by our B-52 bombers on their illegal runs over that country.  Cambodia was a staging area for the Viet Cong, and the eastern border was hit especially hard by bombing runs (that didn’t exist) as the enemy moved back and forth between the two countries.

Stein’s book, which reads like a murder mystery (and which, by the way, is almost impossible to put down), is also a tragic tale of America’s imperialistic designs on Southeast Asia.  As he winds through the story of Chuyen’s “murder,” which resulted from his superiors’ suspicions that he was a Viet Cong double agent (with not much more proof than an old photo that could have been Chuyen in a North Vietnamese uniform), he fleshes out the officers who killed him with portraits of them growing up, their current family life, their hopes and dreams as officers and men.

When the officers sought a solution to the problem of potentially having a double agent on their hands, they had several options; the most attractive and efficient, however, was assassination.  Looking for advice, they thought they would get it from the CIA people that were so plentiful in Vietnam.  After receiving what they thought was the “green light” from the CIA (who later denied everything and refused to allow its people to take part in the trial) and their commanding officer, they took the agent out on a boat, unconscious, shot him in the head and dumped him overboard, weighted down by tire rims and chains, never to be found again.

Word, of course, got out, and eventually General Creighton Abrams, who didn’t have much use for the Green Berets, decided to put five of them, plus their commanding officer, on trial, charging them with murder.

The book is an instructional handbook on the back-channel infighting and maneuvering that went on, beginning with the prisoners’ internment in solitary confinement, a purely punitive arrangement insisted on by Abrams.  There were protests and letters from the U.S., and before long Congressmen got involved, lawyers arrived in Vietnam, a preliminary hearing was held and the prisoners were threatening to tell the world everything they knew about the secret war in Cambodia, what the CIA was doing:  secrets that no one in the administration wanted the American people to know, beginning with the fact that the Gulf of Tonkin attack was no attack at all.  Rather, it was a ruse to get the American people behind sending troops to Vietnam.

Few people besides Abrams believed the act was a murder at all; a double agent was being eliminated just was thousands of other enemies had been killed by assassination.  Abrams, whose carpet-bombing of North Vietnam resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, believed the American system of justice was on trial:  there was no proof that Chuyen was a double agent, and if he was indeed friendly throughout, and he was then assassinated, it was murder and not an act of war.

Without telling you how the book ends, it should be noted that the author was an intelligence case officer in Vietnam before he became a journalist; he, like fellow officer Daniel Ellsburg, believed the war was a mistake to begin with and a tragic waste of life and the environment.  America had brought a tank to a knife-fight, and most of the time we couldn’t even find the enemy, let alone kill him or her.  We lost Vietname for the same reason we are losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:  the people themselves hate us and don’t want our big fat noses anywhere near their country.  Our big and heavy weapons are useless, ironically, in modern warfare, which is mostly fought, as it was in Afghanistan, in small groups with small weapons.  The increased use of death squads and drone warfare is a recognition that small is better when it comes to fighting these days, and that simply bombing a country will do nothing to change the resolve and the fighting ability of the inhabitants.

The Fox Effect…

The Fox Effect:  How Roger Ailes turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine, by David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters, is a well-written, fascinating expose of Fox News and its evolution from a conservative cable news network to a major player in American politics.

Book Summary and Description:

The Fox News signature is the brain child of Roger Ailes, who governs the day to day rhythms of the The Factor, America’s Newsroom, Hannity, On the Record and other daily Fox shows.  Rupert Murdoch, who owns News Corp., is largely a hands-off person, leaving the direction and slant of Fox News completely in Ailes’ puppet master hands.

The book takes us from Ailes’ early days working for President Reagan, CNBC and other markets before getting stewardship of Fox News, and through the various scandals, movements, politicking and personality clashes that have characterized the cable “news” network from the very beginning.  The major premise when the network began in the late 90’s was to present a conservative point of view on the news to counter the so-called “liberal bias” in the mainstream media:  television, radio and print was supposedly governed by a liberal elite that had a stranglehold on information going out to the American public and beyond.

Fox may have always pretended to be a “news” network, but it never was and still isn’t.  A news presenter in the media relies on facts from reliable sources, fills in background information and other relevant matters such as quotations, graphs, charts and so on, and gives it to the public for its edification and food for thought.  At Fox, facts never got in the way of the news.  “Fair and Balanced,” the Fox motto, is a scam.  What “fair and balanced” really refers to is balancing out what the liberal press is publishing by giving a conservative and neo-conservative slant to all the news and other programming.

Since the departure of Alan Colmes (from the show Hannity and Colmes), about the only liberal commentator left on Fox News is Bob Beckel, who appears on The Five at 5 (this is the show that replaced the disgraced Glenn Beck, whose anti-semitic and racist rants, commercial megalomania and personal visions of grandeur finally got him the boot after almost 3 years on the air), and probably makes more racist and bigoted remarks than anyone else on the show, a roundtable of neo-conservative haters.

Brock and company show with examples, quotes and off the air comments how Fox News morphed from a news network with a conservative slant into a full-blown mouthpiece and shill for the Republican Party and the Religious Right, oftentimes reading “news” directly from Republican talking points and press releases.  The book shows how Fox News was with the Tea Party every step of the way, from its formation to a successful election in 2010, an election in which Fox News played an important role, giving large amounts of air time to favored right-wing candidates, especially dimwit Sarah Palin (who, happily for the Dems, is now contemplating a bid for the 2016 Republican nomination), one of many “paid consultants” on Fox News, some of which spend valuable air time drumming up donations and other support for their eventual candidacies.  Once one of these talking heads declares for office they have to give up their consultant work at Fox, but then are brought back time and time again as the Fox “candidate.”

Not much time in the book is spent on individual Fox personalities except insofar as they demonstrate various points of interest, especially how Ailes controls the main focus of the day (usually via memos), and the outright lies and falsehoods that are perpetrated by the network out of thin air, and then repeated ad infinitum for hours and days and sometimes weeks (Benghazi bombing) at a time.

It is unclear to some of us how Fox News continues to get away with promoting the Republican Party and not get into trouble with the FCC.  Fox will not only be in on a candidate announcement, they will follow and promote that candidate every step of the way with articles and face time, right up to election night, in the meantime slinging as much mud as possible at the Democratic opponents, most of which is based on outright lies or innuendo.

Fox News has killed innocent people.  The book shows in dramatic fashion how various individuals, spurred on by commentators such as Glenn Beck, a hateful, demagogic slick Willie who acted like a school teacher on camera.  Some viewers got so ramped up they went on shooting sprees, most than likely to release the pent up stress, hatred and rage brought on by the constant right-wing hammering of the president, his supporters, and the Democratic Party and others on the left, and issues such as the Obama health plan, the war on terror, and even Obama’s place of birth.  It is quite likely that the assassination attempt on Representative Giffords in Arizona was one such death-by-tv-viewing incidents.  The 22 year-old college student who was the shooter was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, the perfect medical assignment for Glenn Beck.  Further, Sarah Palin’s web site showed certain cities on a map of the U.S. with gun sights (a cross within a circle) on them, Tucson being one of them.  Following this shooting spree there was increased talk of right-wing hate speech and its effects on individuals, as well as another unfruitful discussion about gun control.  Almost twenty people, including Giffords, who was shot point blank in the head, a federal district judge and a 9 year-old girl, were either injured or killed.

The much-disgraced but filthy rich Murdoch had his worst moment, not in the U.S. watching his own television network, but in the U.K., answering for some of his people tapping phones and hacking computers (including those of the royal family) in order to get a scoop on other tabloid newspapers.  Several people went to jail (but not Murdoch, who belongs there), and it was discovered that London police were paid off to the extent that it took a hard-nosed journalist to ferret out the whole story.

For those people who wish to continue watching Fox News (and I freely admit I used to be one of them, faithfully watching every night from O’Reilly all the way through to the repeat of O’Reilly at 10), you will one day realize that what you are viewing is NOT the news, it’s propaganda.  If you were old enough to have lived through a significant portion of the Cold War, you are familiar with TASS, the Soviet communist television network.  TASS was nothing but a mouthpiece for the communist party and the KGB.  It towed the party line, told the party’s lies and disinformation, criticized, ostracized and demonized the opposition, whatever that happened to be, and held up the Soviet government as the best in the world, a government that could do no wrong.  That is exactly what Fox News does.  It tows the Republican/Religious Right line; it parses and criticizes every little statement, no matter how innocuous, by the president or his cabinet; it fills its hours with hate speech and disinformation based on half-truths, sloppy reporting (if any reporting at all goes on) and conjecture; and it fills a void that is somehow present in the gut of many Americans, it takes their side against the big money, the big boss, the big BLACK boss, and anyone and anything that threatens their comfortable lives, their new cars, their homes, their cable TV. It allows them by get by without thinking for themselves, much like religion does, and tells them what to think, and often what to do (write your congressperson, make a donation, etc.).  As a result, the typical Fox viewer is much more ignorant than viewers of other news outlets (the book shows some great examples); they’ve taken in the lies and the bad information, they believe the health care plan has death panels because Sarah Palin said so, they argue with their congresspeople at town hall meetings, quoting Glenn Beck or Hannity (Beck said if the health care plan was passed it would be “the end of America as we know it.”).

If you want the news, pick up a newspaper.  If you want to be entertained by having talking heads crap all over the Dems and liberals in general, then watch Fox News.  You get NO news, NO information that has been vetted, NO new knowledge and certainly NO wisdom by watching these race-baiting haters vomit up their bile.  Fox News is TASS for the Republicans, and if you don’t know you are watching GOP INC when you tune in, I feel sorry for you.

Perry and Abbott share a tender Bible moment…

On January 19, 2015, outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry was shown in a news video “handing down” a Bible that had been passed down from Texas governor to governor since 1925, to the new governor, as of January 20th, Greg Abbott.  He was heard telling Abbott that the primary duty of the governor was to “be a servant” to the people of Texas, and showed him a relevant verse from the book of Mathew.

Besides the obvious First Amendment violation of this public exhibition of the endorsement  of Christianity as the official religion of Texas by the outgoing governor and newly-elected governor, this little Kodak moment introduces Texas voters to Abbott’s personal agendas for his years as Texas governor.  These agendas have been revealed during the course of the election campaign and elsewhere, as noted in an earlier blog from this web site:  both Abbott and his new lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, are creationists who believe, and will try to legislate, that the biblical version of how the earth was formed and when should be taught our students right alongside of the teaching of evolution.

Evolution is an explanation (the scientific term “theory” actually means “explanation,” as in The Theory of Gravity (now, does anyone dispute that “gravity” is “just a theory”?)).  This explanation grows stronger each year as more and more geological and fossil evidence is uncovered and various “gaps” are filled; and the more this kind of evidence if found, the easier it is to debunk certain biblical claims, such as the great flood, Moses parting the Red Sea, the sun stopping in the sky so the good guys could slaughter more of the bad guys and win the war.

So to teach our students stories that simply aren’t true just for the sake of “fairness” (what is fair about teaching young minds fantasies and delusional realities and treating them as matters of fact?) is a horrible way to start a life.  Scientists pass on their discoveries and some of those discoveries are taught to our students.  Evolution has broad scientific and peer-reviewed consensus and is much more accepted as fact than, say, global warming, which also has a very broad consensus.  What does “Intelligent Design” have?  How many of the leading scientific journals have published just ONE peer-reviewed paper on I.D.?  None.

The fact is that creationism is simply a way to shove belief in the Christian Bible down the throats of our educators and our young people.  If you believe that a god created the world in six days and then took a one day break some 4000 years ago, and that dinosaurs lived alongside of the first people (there is a Creation Museum that depicts dinosaurs with saddles), then you are also being asked to believe in what the rest of the Bible says, such as the divinity of Jesus Christ (whose very existence is actually quite doubtful, as no contemporary writers note either his life or his actions) or the events of Revelations.

And this is what our two top state leaders want our legislature to act upon.  Abbott and Patrick are also quite keen on increasing school vouchers so that more Christian schools can be built and used as alternatives to our public school system, which is in enough trouble as it is due to our nation’s unremitting thirst for war instead of infrastructure improvements.

Both officials are “stealth Fundamentalists,” with Abbott being a Roman Catholic.  There is nothing wrong with someone being a Roman Catholic, but the continuing opposition of the Catholic Church (and there seem to be some signals from the new pope that this might be changing ever so slightly) to birth control, abortion and fetal stem cell research means that those issues are also those of Greg Abbott, and these days, what with a very broad conservative base in the electorate and especially in a state like Texas, a man’s religious beliefs, if placed above support for our common law, does not detract from that person’s ability to govern, according to the majority of voters.

In other words, the majority of Americans do not believe in the separation of church and state.  Many have been bamboozled into believing that such a separation is not even in the U.S. Constitution, probably the same people who believe it when they are told that the Constitution establishes the United States as a “Christian” nation, when, in fact, that document does the mention religion, or “God,” once.

The ignorant rednecks and Tea Party devotees will allow themselves to be led around by the nose, and will even join in for the party celebrating the destruction of their rights and liberties, until Abbott’s and Patrick’s actions start to infringe on their personal lives and liberties.  And in time, they will either sit quietly while their rectums are being penetrated, or they will act.  If they act as the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania acted in voting out an entire school board which caused that community huge embarrassment when their plans to introduce Intelligent Design into the school rooms were overturned by a feisty, Bush-appointed federal judge named Jones, then Abbott and Patrick will be one-term wonders.

January 20, 2015

Timothy McVeigh and the Islamic Connection

American mass murderer Timothy McVeigh committed an unspeakable atrocity on April 19, 1995 when he detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people and wounding about 600 others.  He was lethally injected in 2001.  The main reason he gave for the bombing was his anger over the government’s handling of Waco and Ruby Ridge.  In Waco, 76 men, women and children were burned or shot to death by federal agents after a long stand-off.  In Ruby Ridge, Randy Weaver’s family was slaughtered by federal agents.

McVeigh, a “lone wolf” assassin, in this case assisted for a time by Terry Nichols, who is serving a life sentence, was angry at our government over political issues and committed what has always been referred to as an act of domestic terrorism.

According to reports and his autobiography, McVeigh was more or less a “lapsed” Roman Catholic, and, although he took last rites before his execution, he could not justly be called a “religious” man.  He was not a Christian Fundamentalist; he even described himself as an agnostic, claiming that science was his religion.

Okay, so he wasn’t a religious fanatic; how does he tie in with radical Islam?  Do some hard comparative thinking.  Here was a guy, working virtually by himself, who was able to build a truck bomb and blow it up in front of a federal office building in a medium-sized city in the United States.  And why?  Because he believed our government had done something wrong, particularly in two instances, Waco and Ruby Ridge.

A radical Islamist (maybe not even a radical, as ALL Muslims are supposed to hate us as infidels and seek our destruction, in accordance with the Koran) hates the United States for any number of things, beginning with placing military bases in Saudi Arabia, the holiest of holy places in the Islamic world, for bombing, invading and occupying Iraq, Afghanistan and whomever is next, for seeking to crush the Taliban, for killing Osama bin Laden, for fighting against ISIS, for exploiting the Middle East for the benefit of our oil corporations, for bombing a medical plant in the Sudan, for constant drone strikes in many countries, without authorization or notification and without declaring war, for our continuing support for Israel.  The list goes on and on.

If a radical Islamist has so many more things to be upset about than Timothy McVeigh had, what is the conclusion?  The conclusion is that the “policeman of the world” is almost certainly about to get some very nasty payback from some people who are a heck of a lot more motivated than a tall, skinny redhead from Lockport, New York was.

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Author of Freethinkers, a survey of mainly nineteenth and early twentieth century American freethinkers like Emma Goldman and Robert Ingersoll, Susan Jacoby has written a book about the dumbing down of America that is wonderfully written and with a powerful message:  Americans are getting dumber by the day and our democracy is in big trouble as a result.  An ignorant electorate is easily led by the nose and thus enslaved by those in power.

It’s important to say what this book is NOT about.  It’s not about atheism, it’s not about religion, although both of those play a part.  While it is true that most books about atheism and religion mention the anti-rational, anti-intellectual strain in all religions, this book is mostly a book about American culture and how we’ve somehow lost our way.  Or to put it another way, she shows us exactly how we lost our way, and even she has her doubts that we can ever right the ship again.  She does have some suggestions in her conclusion to the book (one of the main ones is to simply turn off the television set!), but she is largely pessimistic about our culture’s future, which is now in the hands of technology and those who manipulate it.

This book is also a reminiscence of sorts, as Jacoby uses her own childhood, growing up in the Fifties, as a backdrop against which to measure the changes our society has gone through since the end of World War II.

But she goes back even further than that, to the days when, just after the entrance of this country into WWII, President Roosevelt started his Fireside Chats and asked everyone to have a map of the world open in front of them as they listened to him so he could explain just how extensive America’s involvement in the war would be, what the difficulties were in  getting needed supplies overseas to the military forces, and so on.  Thousands and thousands of maps were sold to Americans eager to learn and follow what the president was trying to explain to them.

Beginning with the failure of Congress to establish a national set of standards for schools, and a national university, as Washington had hoped, through to recent university curriculums that include courses on situation comedies, horror movies and “fat studies,”  Jacoby hits all of the main areas in which our culture has deteriorated.

Our Founding Fathers had high hopes for Americans of all races and creeds; they wanted us to get an education and to learn on our own so we could be successful and have full lives.  The Bush the Younger administration, on the other end of the spectrum, was noted for its disdain of knowledge, particularly expert knowledge and expertise, as Bush stacked his science panels with political cronies who didn’t have the foggiest notion of what they were supposed to be doing.  Bush also supported the teaching of evolution in public schools, and seemed proud of the fact that he was, more or less, a bonehead good ol’ boy, a man who made fun of others who knew French, but who could knock back a brew with the best of ‘em.

In the early Fifties, before most families owned television sets (and when I was young you got the 3 major networks plus PBS), people would gather around the radio at night and listen to their favorite national and local shows.  People actually talked to one another.  Once television became a household fixture, people started to talk to each other less and less.  And then, one by one, along came the Walkman, cell phones, video games, the internet, e-mail and texting.  People were isolated from one another simply by the attention they felt they had to pay to “infotainment.”  We stopped writing letters to one another; we no longer waited by the mailbox for that special piece of mail to arrive, all we had to do was open up our e-mail account or check our phone for text messages.  And we sat, and still sit, in front of the television for hours on end, munching away at our favorite snack.

Jacoby goes through a whole list of cultural areas which have been dumbed down as America gets older.  Magazine articles must now be short to cater to the short attention span of Americans.  Music, art and book reviews have been taken out of newspapers and magazines entirely, or reduced in space given, as people are reading less and going out less, to concerts or art exhibits.  Our politicians don’t talk like Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy anymore.  They use words like “folks” when talking about “people.”  This makes them “one of the guys” and manipulates the electorate into believing them when they are actually lying through their teeth.  Speaking of voters, Jacoby lashes into them for swallowing the whole gamut of lies the Bush administration spread to invade Iraq; the American people are too lazy and too ignorant to challenge what the leaders are doing.  Almost no one can name one Supreme Court Justice.  Over half don’t accept evolution (and this includes Republican congressmen).  Four out of ten people don’t read any books in the course of a year.  Six out of ten would follow what the bible says rather than a contradicting federal or state law.

Junk science, such as Intelligent Design, and junk thought, such as the inaccuracies spread on the internet or social theories like separating boys and girls in school, get past the American people because they are too lazy to check the facts for themselves or to learn the subject in the first place.

The decline of reading is what Jacoby cites as probably the greatest cause of our cultural backwardness.  It just takes too much time, doesn’t it?  She remembers a time, as I do, when all the kids, especially in the summer, loved the trips to the library to load up on books appropriate to their ages, bring them home and read them cover to cover.  In the summertime, there really wasn’t all that much to do when it was hot other than taking a dip.  Relaxing on a favorite chair or in a favorite corner with a good book were real pleasures seldom experienced anymore.  Not when there are video games to play or friends to text and web sites to explore.

As you can tell, there is much to learn in this excellent book.  It’s very well-written, meticulously researched, and passionately conveyed.  The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby.

January 8, 2015

Dan G. Patrick, the new Tea Party Republican/Religious Right Lieutenant Governor-elect for Texas, spoke yesterday at a Texas Patriot PAC function, and as I watched the speech on YouTube my thoughts turned to 2016 and the challenges facing Democrats, independents, libertarians and liberal Christians. Patrick endorsed the entire fundamentalist platform, including increasing school vouchers for religious schools, de-regulation, teaching creationism in schools and opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. Patrick is an ideological clone of Governor-elect Greg Abbott.  If you live in Texas, hang on to your cowboy hats!

The presidential election of 2016 will, I think, be a turning point in our nation’s history. The Religious Right is essentially piloting the Republican ship right now. They support the supply-side or trickle-down economics of Republicans in Congress: lower taxes for the rich, abolishing regulations, opposition to social programs and hate crime legislation, laissez-faire Spencerian capitalism (“survival of the fittest”). Although Republicans in Congress may not all necessarily endorse the agenda of the Religious Right, as long as they have the supply-side support that is, frankly, their ONLY agenda item (all new Republican members must take a pledge to never vote to raise taxes), members will gladly go along with at least parts of the Religious Right agenda.

With well over seventy per cent of Americans calling themselves “Christians,” the Republicans already have a huge potential voter base. The Democrats are scattered, disparate and divided.  “Billy, we hardly knew ye!”  Where is war criminal Bill Clinton when you need more war crimes done?

Hillary Clinton is clearly the front-running Democrat candidate, and has been since 2012. She has virtually no chance of winning if nominated, nor would any other Dem. Either Clinton will have to draw on her strong Republican upbringing and strict religious education to try to pander to undecided voters from the Right, but at the risk of alienating parts of her own constituency, or there has to be some form of populist mass movement with wide voter appeal that attracts voters to the Democrat agenda.  One would have thought the Occupy Wall Street movement would have had broader appeal, based as it was on the disparity of wealth in America and the raping of our institutions and our public treasuries by the banks, corporations and conglomerates; the only problem was that the vast majority of the 99 per cent had no idea what their compatriots were talking about.  All they saw was the at times unruly and disrespectful behavior, the tents and garbage, the occasional clashes with police and the general disturbing of the peace, their peace included.

It is possible that “middle brow” no longer exists, and that the vast middle class has become so dumbed down by their religion, television in general and Fox News in particular, they are no longer capable of understanding an original thought or listening to both sides of an argument.  “What has been lost is an alternative to mass popular culture, imbibed unconsciously and effortlessly through the audio and video portals that surround us all.  What has been lost is the culture of effort.” — Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason.

If the Democrats have nothing to unite them, they will become even more divided as the election cycle plays itself out.

But there is a third possibility, one that may take up to ten years to come to fruition.  The voters in Dover, Pennsylvania voted out an entire creationist school board when the small town was humiliated in a nationally publicized trial, brought to them courtesy of the ACLU and their own stupidity.  They lost, of course, with Bush appointee Judge Jones delivering a stinging, hair-curling decision that literally tore the Intelligent Design arguments to shreds.  But the main point here is what the voters did in the next election.  They realized the errors of their ways and voted the Fundamentalists out.

If things go badly, and by that I mean we wind up with a Fundamentalist Republican in the White House with a Dominionist agenda, the worst of all possible scenarios (although George the Younger came darn close), once the American people see who and what it is they voted for and experience some of the effects of a group of people who hate democracy, do not believe in our republic, seek to control every aspect of our lives with biblical rules and precepts, and turn our public schools into ghost towns, perhaps perceptions will change.

One thing Middle America will not tolerate is not being left alone when they want to be left alone–with their reality TV, their high school football, their fat food, their SUVs which they had to borrow money for.  This will be a much larger factor even than watching gay people being imprisoned or deported, freethinkers being fired from their jobs, even factory jobs, and all liberals and intellectuals being labelled “communists” and ostracized and ignored.

The Lies Our Fathers Tell Us

The Benghazi Hoax, by David Brock, Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters For America, is a book about the attack on the United States embassy in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 and 12, 2012.  Was it a terrorist attack?  Or was it the product of a spontaneous demonstration against an internet movie (Innocence of Muslims by a Libyan-American named Sam Bacile, and promoted by a Florida-based pastor and Arab-hater) that angered the Muslim world and had sparked demonstrations in other places, such as Cairo?

Believe it or not, even at this late date, no definitive answer has been revealed.

The Benghazi Hoax, however, is not so much about the attack or what sparked it as the reaction to how the Obama administration handled it.  Conservatives of all stripes, but particularly Republicans and the Religious Right (is there any difference?), attempted, in the years following the attack, to blame President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for trying to cover up what really happened in Benghazi at the embassy that night.  The book is a case study of how the conservative rumor mill worked overtime to try to make the president and his administration look bad in the face of an attack on Americans (four Americans lost their lives in the attack), and to score political points, especially against then Secretary of State Clinton, whose popularity as potentially the 2016 Democratic candidate for president had soared.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in one of the most classless moves of the century, put out a press release while the attack was still in progress, condemning the Obama administration for soft-peddling terrorism.  This was universally condemned and one of the reasons Romney lost the election.  He also later claimed in a town hall debate that Obama had failed to call the attack “terrorism” because we had recently killed Bin Laden and the conservatives believed the president thought terrorism was over; one more attack of this magnitude looked bad on his resume, they assumed.  However, after Romney made the claim in the debate, Obama had the moderator read back his statement the morning after the attack.  He did refer to it as “an act of terror” and Romney stood there with his mouth open.

Romney had made a crucial mistake of fact because he, like most other conservatives and fanatics from the Religious Right, heard the lie so many times they believed it to be a fact.  When the real world bites back all they can do is drop their jaws and dream up an excuse.

Susan Rice, an assistant to Secretary of State Clinton, was given “talking points” from David Petraeus at the CIA (he was the boss at that time) before she appeared on several Sunday news programs shortly after the attack, beginning with Meet The Press.  The best evidence the CIA and others had at that point was that the attack was based in the demonstration against the movie and not terrorism or Al Queda.  Rice, who was slated to succeed Hillary as Secretary of State, was pilloried, along with the president and Secretary Clinton, for putting out a “story” that took the answer away from terrorism.  Again, the conservatives believed the last thing Obama wanted it to be was terrorism.  Further, Rice came from Clinton’s office, and here was another chance to demean Hillary.  All Rice was doing was repeating the talking points that Petraeus, beloved of conservatives, gave her. And for that she was forced to withdraw her name from nomination as the new Secretary.

The book goes on to describe the many hoaxes perpetrated by members of Congress, the Republican media stalwarts, such as Fox News, radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and various newspapers owned by the conservative ideology, and debunks in a clear, fact-filled and interesting manner each and every one of them.

Like the God and Jesus and Moses of their Christian religion, the fantasies the conservatives concocted were far-fetched, fraudulent, deliberately misleading and based in a reality in which a man with a stick parts the Red Sea.  In Europe or in any other developed and civilized nation, all of these people would have been laughed out of town.  In America, however, where the neo-cons and the Religious Right have a huge-handed and unyielding grip on the Republican party and conservative people in general, most of whom repeat verbatim whatever talking points Fox News gives them on any given day, without the benefit of facts, reason or critical reflection.  It is mob rule at its pedantic worst.  These are people who think they are being good citizens by keeping up with the news and voicing their opinions, while in reality they are willing parrots of a fact-callenged spin machine, and they generally, when interviewed, wind up looking like complete fools by saying things like “It was on Glenn Beck!” or “O’Reilly said so!”  These overweight, low I.Q., sweatsuit-wearing dummies should be shipped off to North Korea:  it’s too late for the Third Reich.

In 2016, especially if Hillary runs for president (and she cannot win, and neither can any other Democrat, as they have no discernible voter base, while the Republicans have every bible-thumping Christian on their side of the field), you will hear the word “Benghazi” more times than you will be able to count.  Depend on it.

An elephant never forgets.

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, A Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, by Mark Mazzetti

BOOK DESCRIPTION AND SUMMARY:

Mark Mazzetti, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times, has written this book to reveal how the CIA, the White House and Pentagon has responded to our changing world of politics and global war.

This book is about the unending “war on terror” and how the CIA changed its basic premise from being a spy-and-surmise agency to a mission of counter-terrorism, using drones as well as human assets in actual combat situations.  The Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld, also changed, adding spy capabilities to its arsenal.  According to Mazzetti, the two agencies often run parallel missions; they distrust each other, are jealous when the other achieves a victory, but both became enamored of the potential use of unmanned flying drones, and both eventually got in that game as the drone progressed from a simple flying photo shop to a machine capable of firing rockets and missiles at specific targets and hitting them within inches of the invisible bull’s eye.

Instead of using more ground troops or heavy artillery to kill the enemy, mostly Al Queda leaders and members, the U.S. has embraced new technologies like the drone in order to reduce casualties among our own troops and innocent civilians as well.

That’s one part of the equation.  The other is how these new weapons are being used, and where.  Washington went through a gut-wrenching process in deciding to use lethal force, conduct attacks, and fly the drones in countries other than those in which we were conducting major military operations; throughout the ’90s and 2000’s, those countries have been Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and other countries are those in which predators were used to track down and attack Al Queda and other terrorist operatives; and of course, as in the case of Pakistan, we also used Navy Seals in small scale attacks such as the one that killed Osama bin Laden.  He was hiding in plain sight, virtually, in Pakistan, and probably with the full knowledge at least of the Pakistani Secret Service, or ISI.  And these people were our partners in fighting the enemy?

As time went by, the CIA did more and more counter-terrorism and less and less spying and analysis.  For example, the so-called Arab Spring, noted mostly for popular uprisings in Egypt and Libya, came as a complete surprise to the CIA, something that would have been unheard of three decades ago.  The Pentagon, for its part under Donald Rumsfeld, established a small-scale spying operation of its own, and over time depended more and more on smaller, surgical assassinations, snatch-grabs-and-go, etc.  This is “The Way of the Knife.”  Instead of attacking a house in which there were several terrorists with Tomahawk missiles or even a tank cannon, the new way of the knife meant cutting just enough to get the job done:  send a drone missile into the house or a small group of Green Berets to kill whoever was inside who was on the “kill list.”

Early on in the Obama administration, the president decided it was easier and more efficient to just kill who they wanted instead of capturing and detaining, given the problems the USA has had in carrying out enemy combatant imprisonments.  This surprised the CIA and others, but Obama had campaigned against the use of torture against prisoners.  Kill the enemy and you don’t have to worry about where to put him, with all of the accoutrements that entails  (Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, etc.)  Killing was the cold-blooded alternative, and Obama embraced it.

Obama not only matched but far exceeded Bush’s work at the secret wars, and in the process (and this the author barely discussed) broke virtually every law we have as far as declaring war and seeking the consent of Congress in these matters.  Congress, probably like the rest of us, however, was ready to give the Bush and Obama administrations a blank check as far as conducting the war against terrorists.  As usual, Congress did nothing, rarely even complained:  probably the sorriest group of losers in the continental U.S.  All Congress seems to care about any more, as dominated by the Religious Right conservative Republicans, is carrying forward the supply-side creed and trying to turn the U.S. into a Christian nation, which it’s not and never was.

The Way of the Knife is effortless reading, a tribute to Mazzetti’s skills as a writer.  Easy to understand, easy to follow, even with all of the Middle Eastern names and places, Mazzetti lets loose fact after fact, many of which will surprise you, some of which will astound you.

December 30, 2014

On the Outside Looking In

Watch a Chicago Bears football game.  You will hear Jay Cutler’s name.  Cutler is the Bears’ quarterback.  The announcers will talk about how Cutler has disappointed Chicago fans by under-achieving.  They will tell you he makes $23 million this year.  Twenty-three million dollars.  In one year.  A farmer making $50,000 a year for 20 years makes $1 million.  Twenty years for $1 million, with a good portion of that going for state and federal taxes, etc.  $23 million for playing a child’s game on national television.  That’s what Jay Cutler does.

You could point to Russell Wilson, the reigning Super Bowl quarterback out of Seattle.  He makes about $700,000 this year due to his rookie contract, signed two years ago.  If he stays healthy, when his contract expires he should be making money in the Cutler range.  For one reason because he’s a much better quarterback, and ten times the leader that Cutler is.  I saw what Wilson did at Wisconsin; I’m from there and always follow the Badgers.  He lost 3 games in his one season at Wisconsin, two games lost in the last seconds by his own defense, allowing Hail Mary passes in losses to Michigan State and Ohio State; they lost to Oregon in their bowl game, also mostly due to defensive problems.  Wilson needed another minute to lead them to victory, but didn’t have it.

As a pro, Wilson impressed Coach Pete Carroll so much during the exhibition season, he was started at quarterback over a veteran quarterback (Matt Flynn, now with the Packers) being paid $7 million a year.  Carroll chose quality over hype.

Is it fair that a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, a winner and a leader his entire sporting career, should make less than 3 per cent of what Jay Cutler, a loser and a poor leader who just happened to catch the owner in the right mood last year?

Is it fair that Russell Wilson should make $700,000 this year playing a kid’s game and working only 6 months out of the year, when a plumber in Brooklyn working 2000 hours a year is making $70,000 and struggling to put food on his table or educate his children?

Is this all just relative?  What is the point?

There was another period in our history when the “elites” controlled pretty much everything.  It was called “The Gilded Age.”  The only way we broke out of it was through a series of labor strikes, anarchist activity, radical ideas and violence.  From those we got labor unions, labor-management cooperation, better wages and benefits:  a bigger piece of the pie due to wealth re-distribution.  Working men and women had real power.  They were like a force of Nature.

That is exactly what we need now.  It’s great that we’re taking to the streets to fight the genocide of young black men by the police; this is something that’s really happening, and it has to be stopped.  But I would suggest that we begin to fight, and fight hard, for a general re-distribution of the wealth in America.  If we could stop the rape of our land, the plunder of our treasury, the militarization of our foreign policy, there would be enough for everyone to send their kids to college for free and to own their own home.  Are we strong enough to give up our football so the $120 million that Peyton Mann9ing is getting over six years can be spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and housing the homeless?

It doesn’t even have to be a violent revolution.  It could be in the form of a constitutional amendment.  A great place to start would be term limits in Congress.  Limit:  ONE TERM.  Think of the graft and corruption, the peer pressure, the bribes, the pork that could be stopped if lobbyists and special interests were cut out of the game.

Our system no longer works.  We no longer have three separate and equal branches of government.  The only thing left for the ordinary person is extraordinary change to our founding documents.

CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION, NOW!  CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION, NOW!

THE BIG CON: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics, by Jonathan Chait

Jonathan Chait, born 1972, is a writer for the New York Times Magazine and The Los Angeles Times.

This book is about the rise of supply-side economics, the macro theory that reducing taxes is the only measure that is needed to create a healthy economy; it’s a “trickle-down” theory, meaning that if the tax rate of the wealthiest investors and entrepreneurs is cut, they will invest more and the results will “trickle down” to the rest of the taxpayers, yielding a healthy economy and greater wealth for all.  In order for the economy to grow, those who supply our goods and services need to be left alone, in the form of lower taxes and less regulation, so that their wealth can increase, allowing them to hire more people or by other means provide for the needs of the rest of society, the “masses” or “the little people.”  You and me.

The idea began with Arthur Laffer, an economic consultant, Jude Wanniski, an editorial page writer for the Wall Street Journal, and our old friends Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  They met up in 1974 and decided to spread the word about Laffer’s theory, capsulized in “The Laffer Curve.”  Wanniski also wrote for the Public Interest, published by the father of neo-conservativism, a former communist named Irving Kristol.  Soon Congressman Jack Kemp was on board, and then Ronald Reagan, whose adoption of the Laffer Curve was termed “Voodoo Economics” by candidate George the Elder prior to Reagan’s election as president in 1980.  Reagan evidently forgave GHWB and made him his Vice President, or president of vice.

The highest tax rates in the 1950’s and ’60’s (Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy) was 91 per cent.  In 1988, when Bush the Elder was elected president, the rate was down to 28 per cent.  He promised “Read my lips:  no new taxes,” but did raise the rate to 31 per cent two years later during a recession, a major factor in his loss to Slick Willie in 1992.  His boy, George the Younger, cut taxes four times in his first five years in office, resulting in an eventual loss of tax revenue of $400 billion, and taking the country from a position in the black to a multi-trillion dollar deficit by the time he was done with us.

It is “voodoo economics,” because traditional economists are professionals and academics, and just like scientists, when a new theory or idea is brought forward it’s subject to peer review and publication in major journals.  Supply-side went through no such vetting process.  Chait calls it an “ideology,” and notes that the only review the theory received was from Wanniski’s audiences as he travelled the country promoting supply-side and writing editorials.

This economic formulation on a table napkin is now King in Washington, D.C., and anyone who does not go along with it is pretty much toast and yesterday’s news.

Chait does some backtracking and looks at the history of lobbying in America.  He believes that it’s just possible Ralph Nadar started it all!  Everything was going “smoothly” following WWII:  businesses were complying and even asking for new regulations, taxes were high but accepted, and compromise between the government and business was at an all-time high.  As Americans attained more “things,” like cars, people who looked into safety and the environment, like Ralph Nadar, began to appear and question the motives of big business as it put out its products, and demanded protection from our government.

Groups began to appear to defend the liberal issues of the environment, safety and health and union representation.  Government agencies like the EPA were created.  Under Richard Nixon, the emphasis placed on occupational safety and health, the environment and health care reform and the tax reforms that removed many of the loopholes the wealthy had relied on, infuriated conservatives.  At some point, around 1973, Big Business began to fight back, led by neo-con father Irving Kristol, whose son, William, appears nightly on Fox News Channel.  When Reagan became president, they had a friend in the White House and enjoyed prosperity once more.  Stating that “government is the problem,”  Reagan opened White House doors to Big Business; lobbyists began to converge on Washington on behalf of their business clients, and Republicans in Congress, whose interests literally paralleled those of Big Business, became as one with the corporate lobbyists to the point where lobbyists began writing legislation and lining up votes on various bills.  Reagan, however, disappointed his conservative fans with a batch of new tax reforms and by closing some loopholes, but despite heavy criticism at the time, he is still idolized by the Right.  Sort of like Teddy Roosevelt, generally venerated as a hero, but in reality a ruthless butcher and mass murderer of countless Philipinos and others.

With Bill Clinton defeating “no new taxes” George the Elder in 1992, the tax rates were raised 3 points to 31 per cent for the highest bracket.  As the supply-side lobby ONLY thinks and worries about lowering tax rates for the wealthy, Clinton did not make friends with this measure.  However, Slick Willie made his big comeback by “ending welfare as we know it,” returning the burden of assistance for the poor to the states.  During his term, the budget was balanced to the point of surplus and there was one of the biggest peacetime booms in our history–and still the neo-cons failed to acknowledge that they were wrong.  They simply claimed that it was all Ronald Reagan’s doing, and Clinton was on the receiving end of some just plain dumb luck.

When George the Younger entered office, the fix was in.  Policy was no longer made in the various government departments and then vetted through the White House and then Congress; it was made in the White House.  The primary task of the departments was to “sell” the policy ideas coming out of the White House, virtually all of them reflecting a melding together of corporate lobbyists, staffers and elected and appointed officials for the purpose of lowering taxes.  K Street, where most of the lobbyists work out of, and the White House might as well have been under the same roof.  We should have had our name changed to U.S., Inc.  There was nothing Bush would not do to satisfy the Republican lobby, up to and including bad-mouthing his own father for raising taxes.

Since the Bush the Elder tax rate hike, no Republican in Congress has ever voted again for a tax hike.  That’s almost 25 years!  Even when Clinton raised taxes from 28 to 31 per cent, he had to pass the bill without any Republican support.  If you are a Republican running for office in Washington, any office, you are forced to sign a pledge to never vote to raise taxes; if you fail to do so, you will be crushed, ignored, ostracized and thrown out.

I can just picture a brand-new wet-behind-the-ears Republican getting to D.C. for the first time.  He is taken into a Christian Right half-way house (in D.C., but not in a house yet) and proselytized by the Family to forget about democracy and remember that God comes first, lectured by party members about how to vote and how to act and who to talk to, warned by lobbyists to pay first and worry later, and with countless other pressures being exerted.  It has to be a little like being in hell.  But about all one has to remember is that whenever a bill concerning taxes is brought forward, vote for lower taxes for the wealthy.

One member of Congress, John McCain, ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2000 (Bush’s “dangling chad” election).  He ran away with several primaries by presenting voters with a Keynesian economics based on deficit reduction and a more fair tax code.  By the time several primaries had gone by, the conservative supply-siders had gutted his public image so badly with misleading or outright false advertisements, he eventually dropped out of the race.  When he ran against Obama in 2008, after voting against all but one of the Bush tax cuts, he not only did a complete flip-flop, embracing supply-side, he even used Arthur Laffer as his economic consultant!  If you wanna stay in the game, you gotta play with their ball.

The supply-side ideology insists that the richest Americans should pay the least amount of federal taxes.  Period.  George the Younger initiated four consecutive years of tax cuts for the rich.  He did this coming into office with a tremendous revenue surplus, perhaps in the trillions of dollars, as estimated well into the future.  Most voters expected this surplus to pay off the foreign debt or be put aside for Social Security, Medicare and other infrastructure and social programs, instead of spending the money or giving it back to the taxpayers, especially the richest tax payers.  The small minority that controls the Republican Party, however–the supply side people and the evangelicals (I suppose one could argue the SS men are also evangelicals, worshipping Mammon)–holds the public in contempt.  Their whole theory is based on giving the little guy the drippings from the rich, whose coffers are swelling to obscene proportions from tax breaks, tax cuts, subsidies, pork barrel legislation, and outright plunder.  Bush wanted more than anything to please this minority bloc of the GOP and usually always did what he was told.

They are better than us because they are rich and powerful; we are the weak and the refuse.  But they are also deathly afraid of the mighty hand of democracy one day taking it all away from them by re-distributing their wealth to others, who, they believe, have not earned what they have earned and are not good enough to know what to do with it when they get it.  It is government by the rich.

“The Big Con” could be said about a lot of things in America–militarism, heroization, warism, cures for cancer–but in this instance “Con” also refers to “conservative Republicans,” who are still, even after six years of a democratic administration, in control of the national agenda, especially economically.  The presidency of George the Younger is used by Chait to show just how badly our system is flawed as a result of the convergence of Bush’s agenda with that of conservative Republicans.  During his reign, there was virtually no congressional oversight of his policies, his decisions or his crimes.  Congress became a literal rubber-stamp for Bush, and if there was a Republican who failed to tow the line, that person more than likely was defeated in the following election, with help from the conservative bandwagon.  Everything with Bush, from a failure to hold press conferences to classifying millions of documents to refusing to cooperate with the 9/11 Commission (now, why was that, one might wonder??) to failing to meet with or inform the press, seemed to be a big secret.

The feeding frenzy was going on behind closed doors and no one seemed to notice or care.  George W. Bush claimed to promote a “compassionate conservative” agenda during his candidacy, promising to take care of the poor and placing an emphasis on education.  He used the media and its traditional ignorance of economics as a tool, putting out false numbers on first release, and then relying on back page coverage when his numbers were vetted by trained economists.  Conservative journalists were invited to weekly meetings to hear the latest “talking points,” and if one stepped out of line, he or she was put on notice: “You’re either with us or against us.”

Chait spends the latter part of the book dissecting exactly how the conservatives managed to ram through their SS agenda time and time again, paying the rich and starving the poor, and disguising from the American people just what they were up to.  He shows how politics has changed since the neo-cons and the lobbyists started to take control of the Republican Party during Reagan’s two terms.

Congressmen, lobbyists, aides and staff members, journalists and editors, all part of the conservative “team,” have together forged what some might consider the death of democracy.  What they have created is a society whose institutions are autocratically controlled by the rich and powerful, a society whose sole goal is to cut the taxes of the wealthiest individuals and businesses in America in order to reap a monetary plunder at the expense of the other 99 per cent of Americans, with no regard for the future in terms of deficit reduction or social services and infrastructure repair.  It is a soulless pact amongst soulless people; the damage they are doing and have done is incalculable.  And there is no way to stop them.

No One Left To Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, by Christopher Hitchens, with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley

How do you define “is”?

“In power, he has completed the Reagan counter-revolution and made the state into a personal friend of those who are already rich and secure.  He has used his armed forces in fits of pique, chiefly against the far-off and the unpopular, and on dates which suit his own court calendar.  The draft dodger has mutated into a pliant serf of the Pentagon, the pot-smoker into the chief inquisitor in the ‘war on drugs,’ and the womanizer into a boss who uses subordinates as masturbatory dolls.  But the liar and the sonofabitch remain, and who will say that these qualities played no part in the mutation?”  (p. 94)

The dear, departed Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) leaves a formidable bibliography.  Among his shorter works is this one, No One Left To Lie To, concerning one President Bill Clinton, who, quite possibly, was an even worse president than George W. Bush (Bush the Younger).  Why would anyone say that?  First, at least Bush had an agenda, malevolent as it was, whereas Clinton had absolutely no agenda upon entering office (Hillary, on the other hand, was pushing health care reform from day one, much like Rumsfeld and Cheney were pushing Bush for an invasion of Iraq and its untapped oil fields).  Second, Clinton out-Republicaned the Republicans, maneuvering his actions in such a way as to pre-empt a Republican response or backlash.  He sought to kill all criticism and opposition, and so adopted many of the principles, platform agenda, and legislative tactics of the GOP.

He ran for president on ego and for personal gain.  When he ran  for president in 1992, his entire staff was nervously awaiting the next scandal to break, as they all knew there were women, many women, in Clinton’s past, which he either raped or had adulterous affairs with; there were also financial dealings from his days as Arkansas governor that could have brought him down quickly had they been made public or given serious attention by the media.

Hitchens dissects Clinton like a surgeon.  He clearly believes Bill and Hillary are both crooks, hypocrites, liars and thieves, and possibly killers; worst of all, they are full of hot air.  Every time Bill faced a crisis as president he had someone killed, at home or abroad, to take the attention away from the scandal.  During one “bimbo eruption” (Gennifer Flowers) in Arkansas when he was governor, he had a prisoner with the I.Q. of a child executed to distract attention away from the ladies.  No one at the prison wanted to go through with it, but Clinton insisted, he had a scandal to gloss over.  Hitchens never really comes out and says it, but he obviously believes Hillary to be a calculating, Machiavellian bitch instead of a woman with respect for herself; otherwise she never would have put up with Bill’s affairs.  She, too, has been caught in many a lie, one of which had her daughter jogging around the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 when, in fact, she was at home in bed still sleeping.

Perhaps Clinton’s greatest “crime,” if one wished to put it in those terms, besides the deaths of over a half million Iraqi children (not to even mention the adults) as he enforced the embargo against Iraq all through his tenure as president, was the scrapping of welfare laws early in his term, which removed all safety nets from single mothers with children, and who now to rely on the states to help them.  In doing so, Clinton went farther than any Republican ever had in reducing the welfare rolls and welfare benefits:  in essence, he left millions of women and children out to dry.  All this to take away from the Republicans one of their agenda items.

Clinton’s “war crimes,” according to Hitchens, are mostly all related to his sexual affairs, amazingly.  On August 20, 1998, in order to distract attention from Monica Lewinsky’s return to a grand jury hearing (this is a surmise based on a pattern of evidence, as we shall see Hitchens reveals), Clinton ordered a factory (the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical company in Khartoum) that makes 60 per cent of the medicine and pesticides for the Sudan to be bombed, making the claim, later disproved down to the ground, that the chemical was making an ingredient essential to chemical warfare, and that it was financed by Osama bin Laden.

The bombing was entirely bogus and without merit, but worse, Hitchens maintains, we had good diplomatic relations with the Sudan:  they had expelled bin Laden when we asked them to, just as they had expelled Carlos the Jackel when France asked them to.  There was no reason for a secret raid without letting the government negotiate or allow an inspection first–unless, of course, we were unsure of the facts.  Clinton personally picked the site for the bombing, because, Hitchens claims, it is unknown to most Americans and they won’t care if we bomb the wrong building or kill the wrong people.  Which they don’t of course.  Besides killing one night watchman, we also killed what little remained left of good will towards America among the Sudanese and neighboring countries.  Embarrassingly, Clinton then had his people at the United Nations vote against a resolution to conduct an inspection of the factory grounds, the only such vote in opposition.

That same night, Clinton also ordered a bombing raid on Afghanistan, ostensibly to try to get bin Laden.  If you read Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars, summarized in another post on this web site, Clinton failed time and time again over the entire span of his eight-year tenure as president to order a strike on bin Laden when advised by CIA intelligence officers, for fear of hitting innocent civilians or harming his image in some other way.  But apparently because of the confluence of ejaculate-related court dates and being Commander-In-Chief, Clinton picked August 20 to bomb Afghanistan as well as the Sudan.  According to Hitchens, however, the missiles may have missed Afghanistan entirely, instead hitting in Pakistan, where two intelligence officers of the Pakistani army were killed as they were training counter-revolutionaries for duty in Kashmir.  Clinton’s people stated that we had harmed bin Laden’s “infrastructure” in that raid.  Utterly unfalsifiable and unprovable, but, obviously, outright spin, or, in the vernacular, a damnable lie.

In November of 1998, our war planes were en route to Iraq to drop a few early Christmas presents down to Saddam for his refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspection teams, who were looking to signs of chemical warfare materials.  Clinton ordered the planes back when he realized there would be no cachet from the bombing raid in terms of his personal and legal problems.  Instead, the raid was conducted in the middle of December, Clinton hoping to both hold off impeachment hearings and to sway “undecided” congressmen and women to his direction.

It shouldn’t have to be stated that the Berlin Wall and the Cold War both fell in 1989, a little over three years before Clinton took office in January of 1993.  There was no more of Reagan’s “Evil Empire” to fear.  And when military men like Col. Andrew J. Bacevich first entered the old East Germany, to some it became apparent that, all along, the mighty so-called Soviet Empire had been held together with little more than torn sheets and baling wire, vintage 1948.  Bacevich in particular quit the Army and wrote several books critical of U.S. imperialism, militarism, warism and the Cold War.  Clinton, however, thought we had been spending way too little on the military and actually increased military expenditures, approving expensive weapons projects that even the military did not want and which were already obsolete.  Clinton, of course, knew full well that he needed a strong ally to help him fend off the attention given to his personal perversions.  It was Wag the Dog and full steam ahead.  Go Navy!

Hitch spends the last part of his essay, as he calls it, dealing with the impeachment hearing and Hillary.  For all the self-lying called denial that Hillary has gone through, you would think she’d be a very paranoid, schizoid even, personality.  But no.  When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, on top of all the other “bimbo eruptions” caused by her husband’s inability to keep it in his pants, she claimed there was a “vast right wing conspiracy” in progress.  To publicly cover up one lie after another shows that Hillary is just as incorrigible a liar as Bill is.  If she runs as a Democrat, all of the people who heard her say on the Larry King Show that “there is no Left” in the Clinton White House, and who helped her husband cover up his sexual adventures by ordering private detectives to harass and threaten potential witnesses and the victims, who sought and took money from anyone at anytime, legal or otherwise–why, this is someone who will have absolutely NO voting base to rely on, except perhaps some disillusioned or freethinking Republicans, if any exist.  A strong law and order person, how is she even going to get the black vote unless she throws the cops under the bus?  But she’ll do anything for a vote, so look out for it.

So when I say that Clinton was an even worse president than Bush, you have to admit it’s a close race.  Clinton did not act as president, he reacted to whichever way the wind was blowing, and was willing to make public and foreign policy respond to his personal problems to bail him out.  His main claim to legislative fame, the end of welfare as we knew it (which was actually planned out in the Reagan administration), will probably cost the states more in the long run than the old system did.  That, more than anything, killed the Clintons’ liberal base, and how can you explain the people of New York voting her in as Senator Clinton?

If this is all the Dems have to offer in 2016, we are all in a lot of very bad trouble.

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

Book description and summary:

The author of Washington Rules, Andrew Bacevich, is a former colonel in the U.S. Army; now a teacher at Boston University, Bacevich underwent a sort of epiphany while visiting the Brandenburg Gate in the former East Germany just after the Berlin Wall came down.  He has spent his time, to date, and hopefully, well into our future, defining for himself just what kind of transformation he underwent, and how to communicate what he has learned to the rest of the country and the world.

In addition to this book, he has also written The Limits of Power:  The End of American Exceptionalism, The New Militarism:  How Americans Are Seduced by War, among others.

Washington Rules has a very simple premise, which is then developed through illustrations from the Kennedy era Cold War battle over Cuba, the Vietnam War and the Iraqi-Afghanistan wars of George Bush the Younger.  Conclusions and “to-do” recommendations follow.  I could have stood with a bit more “to-do” and a bit more analysis of each conflict.  There was simply too much reporting of facts that most of us already knew.  However, coming from an ex-Army colonel put a somewhat different light on his descriptions, and while the prose might have been rather mundane at times, the interest level was always held at attention; overall, the book is a job well done and must reading for any American who cares about this country and would rather forego the coming and inevitable shipwreck of economic collapse.  For those who are interested, the following Washington Rules must either be abandoned or drastically altered, and herein lies the book’s premise:

The “American credo” states that the U.S. shall “lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.”  Because this credo requires military might,  the second part of the premise is called the “The Trinity,” is as follows:  the U.S. must maintain a global military presence; it must place its forces (forward) to support global power projection, in other words, men and weapons deployed overseas; and to maintain a policy of global intervention.

This, what Bacevich calls “the consensus,” has governed Washington policy and practice since the time of Harry S. Truman, and no president, even Mr. Hope and Change, has ever challenged it.  It is the policy that is taking us down the primrose path to either destruction or economic bankruptcy; it defines how we feel about ourselves and the rest of the world; it guides our imperialistic/hegemonic tendencies; it necessitates those over 700 bases in foreign countries, even countries in Europe fully capable of taking care of themselves; and it has caused blowback such as the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the Beirut barracks attack, and the 9/11 attacks, and has been the source of unending war, the “Long War” on terror, and of untold resentment abroad.

Bacevich states, “To anyone with eyes to see, the shortcomings inherent in the Washington Rules have become plainly evident.  Although those most deeply invested in perpetuating its conventions will insist otherwise, the tradition to which Washington remains devoted has begun to unravel.  Attempting to prolong its existence might serve Washington’s interests, but it will not serve the interests of the American people.” (p. 17)

The author picks out two important men as forming modern American foreign policy:  CIA Director Allen Dulles, and SAC Commander Curtis LeMay, both of whom modernized and enlarged the operations under their respective watches.  It was LeMay who increased our nuclear power to the point where, in 1958, we could drop bombs on 3200 Russian cities several times over.  It was Dulles who turned the CIA from a spy agency to an international team of hit men and regime-changers.

If this doesn’t remind you of today…Bacevich notes that both Dulles and LeMay took advantage of America’s ennui with war, and most people were inclined to let the experts make the important decisions, with or without oversight.

All through the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the more modern wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, all of the presidents, including Kennedy, Clinton and Obama, heeded the call and refused to mess with the Washington Rules, even though any idiot could plainly see that our continued worldwide military presence and brinksmanship were running us dry economically.  Well, any idiot but George the Younger, a puppet for daddy and Uncles Don and Dick, a good boy who did as he was told, a man utterly without conscience, ready to lie, as he did in getting us into Iraq, at the drop of a hat.  With substantial help from Powell and Rice, who should have known better than to go against Dr. King’s teachings.

Bacevich takes us through the Kennedy years, and the change in Kennedy that happened after the “Cuban missile crisis,” where the U.S. and Russia stood toe to toe ready to duke it out over the placement of Soviet missiles on Cuban soil, until Russia finally made a deal.  It did not back down, it made a deal.  From that point, Kennedy was more or less a peacenik, even threatening to dismantle the CIA, the root cause of so many of his embarrassments in office.  He was also leaning towards abandoning the Vietnam “project.”  It was the CIA and/or the military or a military contractor that probably had Kennedy killed by someone, even maybe Oswald, under contract.  What else had Kennedy done to an average Joe like Oswald to warrant a death sentence??  Sirhan Sirhan, the scumbag who killed Robert, was angry over Robert’s support of Israel.  What was there to be angry at Kennedy, except for his incompetent advisors?  And Dulles, of course, headed up the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy’s assassination.  Are you kidding?

One of the heroes of the book is Senator Mike Mansfield, the Senate Majority Leader from Montana, who opposed the Vietnam War with logic:  “They (the Viet Cong) are going to continue to play their strength against our weakness.  Our weakness is on the ground…where isolated pockets of Americans are surrounded by, at best, an indifferent population and, more likely, by an increasingly hostile population.”  Vietnam was a perfect instance of a people we were “defending” who did not want us there and even helped the enemy whenever possible.  Do you suppose the Muslims of Iraq and Afghanistan are any different?  Maybe that’s why some general came up with the quote, “We had to destroy the village to save it.”

Even through the challenges of the Vietnam War, with its attendant world protests and student riots, the Washington Rules survived stronger than ever.  Only a few years after the fall of Saigon, Jimmy Carter (our “sweet” president) was dabbling in arming and training counter-revolutionaries, the mujahideen, in Afghanistan, an action that would entrap the Soviet Union in a ten-year war in that country, and lead to the rise of the Taliban, without whose help Osama Bin Laden’s visionary plans would never have gotten off the ground.

So what did we learn from Vietnam, from a failure of a campaign in a country 8000 miles away, whose people spoke a language and worshipped gods we did not know?  Nothing, apparently.  If you 9/11 happened in a vacuum, feel free to delude yourself.  9/11 was the logical outcome of American imperialism, interventionism and forward power projection.

And because we have not learned, sad to say, there will be more 9/11’s in our future.

December 20, 2014

A recent post described the 100-shot rampage of Larry Steven McQuilliam in downtown Austin November 28 of this year.  McQuilliam was associated with the right-wing Christian Phineas Priesthood sect.

The following letter from your editor appeared in the Austin Chronicle this weekend:

“Dear Editor,

The December 5 issue featured two stories that caught my eye:  one on the McQuilliams shooting incident Downtown, and one on the public intoxication arrest of retired Lt. Col. Don Timmerman.  After a beer-soaked night out on November 7, Timmerman and his wife were both arrested for P.I., and by the looks of it, rightly so, although Timmerman denies it.  The next day he was feted at the Longhorns game with a fly-over, and he thought it was ironic.  What’s is ironic is that Sergeant Adam Johnson, who ended the McQuilliams rampage with a precise shot from 100 yards away while holding the reins of two horses, has not been celebrated as Timmerman was, just for being in the military.  It shows how the relentless, pervasive public relations scam in support of The Long War (our unending “war against terror”) needs a reality check, even in a weird place like Austin.  Sgt. Johnson is the real hero.”

The mainstream media and its advertisers own much of the blame for over-hyping our military personnel and the very ordinary jobs they are doing when they aren’t drunk, doing drugs or whoring.  Everyone, even Hollywood, is in on the act, and their support does nothing but perpetuate our imperial policies and spread the infection of militarism further and further into the lexicon of our society.

What this country needs is another massive anti-war movement, this one against warism itself.  Our economy is on the verge of collapse because of our defense and espionage spending and because of our world-wide military presence.  Our children are being brought up in a world where war is the norm, not the exception, and there’s no one to tell them, until it’s far too late, that their futures are being mortgaged for the benefit of IBM, Halliburton, Boeing and the other war profiteers and politicians.

 

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

Jeff Sharlet, a contributing editor of Harper’s and Rolling Stone magazines, and a visiting research scholar at New York University, infiltrated a home in Arlington, Virginia called Ivanwald, a kind of half-way house to heaven for business, financial and political leaders, including many congressmen and senators.

Ivanwald is the hub of many such houses run by The Family throughout the country, and is currently under the tutelage of Doug Coe, who is referred to as an “associate director,” a man who has met with virtually every important person in the U.S. in the last fifty years at one time or another.  The Family is the organization of like-minded powerful men that is based on what Sharlet calls “elite fundamentalism,” a sort of trickle-down, “Top Man” Christianity that relies not on churches or on any organized religious environment, but on one-to-one mentoring, starting with the top rung of society:  kings, prime ministers, presidents, CEO’s, directors, chairmen, getting them to know and obey Jesus.  It’s “Jesus plus nothing,” meaning that once you have Jesus and submit to his rule, anything goes.  It is a species of dominionism, discussed many times elsewhere in these blogs, but while dominionism relies more heavily on numbers and building an army (thus the Quiverfull movement), the Family focuses on the top one-half of one per cent.  The eventual goal, of course, is a theocracy based on first century Christianity, although in appearance, the Family aims to be an authoritarian oligarchy or plutocracy, the rule of the rich minus rights for the many.

The Family has its roots going back to the early 1930’s and a fellow by the name of Abram Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant.  It was first called The Fellowship and began as a weekly prayer breakfast for the rich and famous, eventually evolving into the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., held every year and generally hosted by the president.  It’s roots are viciously and thoroughly anti-labor, pro-fascist, pro-National Socialist (Nazi), anti-semitic; today, like most evangelical organizations, it focuses its hatred on Muslims and gays.  George the Younger was the perfect candidate for the national leadership of the Fellowship in the White House, except that he was either too stupid or too inept to fully plumb the depths of his presidential powers.  However, the Family has been influencing presidents ever since Roosevelt; in his case, it was dismantling of New Deal and the power of labor that the Family concentrated on, believing both were heavily laden with communists.  One of the early founders of the movement, a Washington state governor, originally mayor of Seattle (they had to start somewhere), tried to nullify the state’s constitution and declare police powers, but luckily failed.

Just as the modern-day Dominionist movement, the early aim of the Family was to place its members in high places, in industry, the military and the government, so you can see that this sort of thing has been going on for about the last century:  Christians convinced that their path is the only true path for every American, and their aim is to take over every element of society to enforce the rule of God, which is incidentally their rule also.

In The Family, Sharlet introduces himself as he insinuates himself into Ivanwald house fellowship (the main conference house is called The Cedars, on the Potomac River), showing it as a kind of fraternity for the younger men, who serve with lawn work and other menial tasks.  And the men they serve are the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes–well, you get the picture.  There is, by the way, a female version of Ivanwald; the young ladies who staff it are called Pontiac Princesses, and they are used as servants and servers when the weekly breakfasts are held at Ivanwald.

Abram maintained close ties to Nazis throughout and even after World War II, including Nazi agents here in the U.S. connected to various acts of terrorism on U.S. soil.  After the War, he and others in the Family assisted prominent Nazis getting passports and other privileges.  Sharlet gives a detailed account of the Family’s close ties to Germany before, during and after the War.  Germans were portrayed as victims of the harsh “denazification” procedures of post-War U.S. occupation; Jews, unbelievably, were blamed but quietly and indirectly.  Abram and others sent food and clothing to Germany to maintain crucial political ties.

The Cold War, which was roughly the 1950’s up to 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down, provided the perfect backdrop for Christian proselytizers like Abram.  It was American Christianity against the atheistic communists, and the government was thick as thieves with men of the cloth and private agents working for the Eisenhower administration.  They were not only instrumental in getting Eisenhower nominated by the Republican party and then elected, they controlled major Senate and House committees.  Fellowship members were responsible for placing “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” on dollar bills.  One Fellowship Senator (Flanders of Vermont) promoted a constitutional amendment that would read, “This nation devoutly recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ.”  Senator Alexander Wiley, chair of Foreign Relations Committee, declared the democratically-elected government of Guatemala to be a front for communism, and the U.S. then supported the coup that followed, installing a dictator friendly to U.S. “interests” in its place.

Prayer groups were installed in every governor’s mansion in the Union.  The first National Prayer Breakfast was held in 1954 in Washington, with Eisenhower and his cabinet in attendance.  The theme of the breakfast was “Government Under God,” and there was a picture of a kneeling Uncle Sam behind the dais, “submitting America to Christ.”

So if you thought George the Younger’s installation of “faith-based organizations” was a violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state, you should have been around in the 1950’s!  Even Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, declared at the second annual Breakfast that the separation of church and state was fine so long as “men of religious faith” were in charge of the country, “a Christian land, governed by Christian principles.”  Whew!

The early science-fiction movie The Blob, starring a young James Arness of Gunsmoke fame, was actually an allegory about the spread of communism and was directed by a Christian who obtained financing for a movie to fight communism.  Now a cult classic, modern viewers would never get the connection, but it was all too obvious to a viewer in the ’50’s.  Perhaps a better analogy would have been to the growing control of The Fellowship over politics.

During the Cold War, The Fellowship sought influence around the world, connecting with and supporting dictators like Papa Doc in Haiti, Selassie in Ethiopia, Park in Korea, Suharto in Indonesia, and others.  With their influence, these countries were granted favors and aid from the U.S. government.  For example, Ethiopia during this time received more U.S. aid than the rest of Africa combined.  All due to The Fellowship quest for worldwide expansion and the influence it wielded back in Washington.  When an Army General was sentenced to prison for selling mothballed U.S. weapons to Third World gangs, The Fellowship distributed tracts disclaiming any responsibility for what individual members did; and besides, “The powers that be are ordained of God,” and therefore there was no such thing as guilt or sin among the Fellowship agents.

The close ties to Indonesia’s Suharto began when he was a general for Sukarno, killing 500,000 “communists” in that country with the help of missionary informants pointing the “bad guys” out.  Suharto was part of a prayer group of the Fellowship, as was Gerald Ford when he was a congressman, and together, with U.S. arms and Suharto’s men, they managed to kill between 500,000 and 1.8 million residents of East Timor, who, upon the withdrawal of Portugal as the imperialist “owner” of East Timor, were allegedly preparing a communist uprising and attack on the 130 million Indonesians next door.  Their only crime was that they were an independent nation.  Social order is not possible without a powerful leader showing his power in the name of God.  If you are not with Jesus you are against Jesus.  Islamophobes, take some relief from that!

Jesus plus nothing equals power.  Consorting with Nazis, butchers like Suharto and Papa Doc, bullies and bad men never bothered the Fellowship.  It was natural that many of the top men would be bad men with  a bad past.  What was important was to connect and then convert, and if what they learned by obeying Jesus trickled down to the little people, great.  The Fellowship didn’t worry about the “little people,” only the big fish.  Power.  The power of prayer.  Men praying together.  Brothers.  Even presidents and prime ministers were nothing before God.

Richard Nixon, a lapsed Quaker due to the violence committed by the U.S. under his watch,   was constantly running favors for The Family, and actually initiated church services in the White House during his Watergate-shortened reign.  Many, if not most, of the Watergate burglars were associated with The Family, and Charles Colson, who was sent to jail over his role in the cover-up, began his prison ministry under the auspices of Family leaders, especially Doug Coe.  Today there are over 50,000 Colson workers in prisons across the world, but the only person Doug Coe ever spoke to and prayed with was Colson:  Top Man Christianity.  Colson was good at what he did.  He even managed to get former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver to appear on the 700 Club and to support Reagan in 1980.

In fact, the author shows that the Family doesn’t care about a person’s political affiliation–liberal or conservative, butcher or victim–Cleaver, Suharto….or Hillary Clinton, who, while not a Family member, is a member of the Senate prayer group, her prayer partner being the ultra-reactionary Senator from Nebraska, Sam Brownback.  Clinton, it may shock some readers, is a “good girl” in the eyes of the Family.

“The Family works through the men and women we put in power.  Sam Brownback.  Hillary Clinton.  Pick your poison.  In the calculus of party politics, these two do occupy distant coordinates, but in the geometry of power politics, the Family knows, they are on the same plane, and the distance between them is shrinking…This is an awful tight space in which to fit a democracy.”

When men like Siad Barre, the butcher of Somalia, are called “brother” by men like Doug Coe of the Family, and when the influence of the Family seems to be all-pervasive, with senators, congressmen, chairmen of the joint chiefs, staffers and interns in its hip pocket, what hope is there left for our democracy? Religion has invaded politics as at no other time. One of our two major political parties can justly be called, in 2014-15, our first “religious” political party, with 70 per cent of America already booked up as natural constituents. There seems to be no going back until we are a theocracy, with Fundamentalist/Dominionist Republicans running the show. What or who is there to stop them?

They were stopped, temporarily, when President Obama was elected. That was something the American people did on their own. In the 2014 elections we gave Republicans control of both houses on the hill. If the same happens in 2016, and a Republican Fundamentalist (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindel, etc.) becomes president, or even if a Democrat like Hillary is elected, who already has close, decades-long ties to the Family, prayer cells, and the facilitation of acts of mass murder by our own people or by butchers like Barre, we are as a nation in serious trouble.

Austin Attacked by Phineas Priesthood member

If anyone thinks America is not at risk from its own home-grown Christian Right, you should have been in Austin the day after Thanksgiving.  Larry Steven McQuilliams was an Austin resident with a checkered past and a police record.  On November 28th, he fired over 100 rounds of automatic rifle fire at the downtown Austin police station, the federal courthouse, and the Mexican consulate, injuring no one but suffering a fatal gunshot wound from a mounted police officer (Sgt. Adam Johnson; horses names unknown at this time) 100 yards away holding the reins of two horses as he fired.

(Now this guy was a real hero!  It’s ironic that the Saturday previous an entire football stadium full of inevitably disappointed Longhorn fans gave a standing ovation and a fly-over to a veteran who the night before the game was arrested for public intoxication!  The PR scam promoting The Long War continues while we ignored the reality and heroism of the shooting incident.)

Perhaps the most important thing about McQuilliams was that he was affiliated with the Phineas Priesthood, a loosely-knit ideologically-based sect of the Christian Right whose main claim to fame is its vehement opposition of interracial intercourse, mixed marriages, homosexuals and gay rights, anti-semitism and abortion.

Members of the Priesthood were responsible for several abortion clinic bombings, bank robberies and plans to blow up FBI buildings in the ’90’s.  The Phineas Priesthood has always claimed the Bible as their authority, specifically the Book of Numbers.  An Israelite named Phinehas ended a plague sent by God because the men were mixing with women of other races and religions; he ran a spear through a mixed couple while coupling, killing both.  From this literary fable, the Phineas Priesthood took its delusional mandate to use violent means to strike against interracial relationships and other forms of immorality as they see fit.

As with other delusions, sometimes individuals carry out what they deem to be a call or the voice of God in violent ways.  An excellent reason to have Christian faith/belief considered a “delusion” by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV, and to classify, as has already been done with many Christian sects, Christianity as a hate group and their words and actions considered hate crimes as appropriate.  For example, a preacher screaming from the pulpit about the sin of homosexuality is making hate speech and should be prosecuted for it; you never know who might take the nut lug seriously and go out and commit a violent act against a gay person or organization.

Austin hopefully got its wakeup call on November 28, 2014.  When will you get yours?

No Patriots Left

It is my contention that patriotism in America is dead.  My theory is as follows:  there are approximately 70 per cent of Americans who claim they are Christians.  They are taught in their churches and by their leaders, including leaders on television and in the right-wing or Christian think tanks like Focus on the Family, that America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, that all of our Founding Fathers (we think so highly of men like Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Washington and Franklin, etc. that we capitalize their description) were God-fearing Christians, and that the Constitution was inspired by God, that America is God’s “special” country and He watches over us and protects us in time of war and conflict.

They have it all wrong, which in my view disqualifies them as patriots.  While religion is having faith is something unseen and unknowable, it doesn’t exactly work that way in real life.  If you believe something as a fact, and you are wrong or delusional or just engaged in wishful thinking, then your belief is misplaced and you cannot claim a status you have not earned:  you believe in a fantasy, not in the truth, not in history, not in things as they happened but how you wanted them to have happened.

So that’s the majority of Americans right off the bat who can’t “really” be called patriots.  They’re idiots, and no one wants an idiot on their side.  You can argue all day and all night, but the facts are that most of the Fathers were Deists, and they intentionally set up a secular government from the very beginning.

That leaves another 30 per cent of Americans.  About 20 to 25 per cent of these believe in God (making a total of 90 to 95 per cent of Americans who believe in God), leaving 5 per cent atheist or “other.”  Let’s say that out of the 20 to 25 per cent who may not be Christian but do believe in a god, probably 20 per cent also believe that America was founded as a Christian nation.  That leaves maybe 10 per cent who don’t think so, either because they are educated or have educated themselves, or because they are secularists or have dabbled in the freethinker world view.  Of that 10 per cent, who are probably well-educated if not highly educated, it might be surmised that they not only don’t believe that America was founded or intended to function as a Christian nation, they also don’t like what’s been happening to their country, especially since the end of World War Two.

After WWII, our nuclear arsenal was built up significantly during the Kennedy administration while he played footsies with Nikita.  America, and the Kennedy Bros. in particular, were obsessed with the bogus “threat” of communism.  Kennedy blew his chance with two major failed operations in Cuba intended to oust Castro and give the people of Cuba a government they really didn’t want.  Kennedy then made a very bad mistake and fired Allen Dulles from the CIA directorship; Dulles made up for it by heading the Warren Commission after he and the generals had Kennedy killed.

Dulles greatly increased the quantity and scope of covert CIA operations, leading to foreign(and possibly domestic) assassinations and other plots to destabilize governments we did not like, even democracies; Curtis LeMay, before he became a household joke running with George Wallace in 1968 as his VP candidate, was the head of SAC.  He and others who followed, i.e. Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, built up our nuclear capabilities to the point at which we could bomb every city in Russia with nukes three times over from our land, from the air and from the sea.

Any person with intelligence and a brief look at history since the Vietnam War fiasco can see that about the only real “heroes” America has had have all been whistleblowers:  Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, NSA’s Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning, and from afar, Julian Assange, an Australian who several congressmen want to have killed, which I say entitles him to at least honorary citizenship.  If Lee Harvey Oswald had survived he might have been the biggest and best.  And let’s not forget Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson!

Let’s not forget the Patriot Act, passed after 9/11.  The reason it’s called the Patriot Act is that we are all being good patriots by allowing the government to intrude into our lives more than ever before, diminishing our rights under the Constitution.  That was a joke.  You get it?  It’s called the Patriot Act but actually takes some of our rights away–so to be a good Patriot is to say “yes!” to the new police state, willingly give up some of our rights under the law, and allow every person who holds a cell phone to be tracked by the government.  The Soviet Union is no more, but, like the phoenix, it is managing to resurrect itself, here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

So I guess what I’m trying to get across is that the remaining 10 per cent–thinking, maybe freethinking, critical and inquisitive people–may still be holding onto a slender reed of belief that what the Founding Fathers intended this country to be might actually one day happen, but the doubt factor is so high right now that many of them, including myself, are seriously considering emigrating before the roof caves in.  Patriots?  Yes, we are patriots in the sense that we care about our fellow citizens and our communities, and how the vast majority of Americans are little more than slaves that serve the one per cent.  But our government was a rotten apple from the get-go (a government by the rich, for the rich, with women and blacks and Indians having no vote), although it had potential to become something special.  Well, it’s not special after all.

The media, with its coverage of “God Bless America” between innings of baseball games, its glorification of all things military, the television and radio commercials thanking veterans for their service, when in actuality most veterans served their time getting drunk and chasing whores, the endless publicized sentimental reunions of returning GI’s, the total obliviousness of the public, its acquiescence, its not even wanting to know what our military and secret police are doing or how much money they are spending or whether or not our presidents are violating the law when the last war that was declared was in 1942.  My fellow citizens who live their lives with their heads gladly in the sand and their rears sticking up in the air ready and willing to be raped by the rich and powerful:  you are not patriots and are not worthy of respect.  You worship false gods and false prophets and prove out the notion that life is but a dream.  Your life is spent drifting in a box.  You are worth less than nothing because you pollute and you take up space.

Where are the real patriots?  Perhaps they’re in a spaceship on their way to the moon, to start the whole thing all over.  To get it right.

December 4, 2014

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges, Part Two

I began a book summary a couple of days ago and wish to continue that today.  To see Part One, go to November 30.

Other books by Chris Hedges include War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Losing Moses on the Freeway:  The 10 Commandments in America, and I Don’t Believe in Atheists, among others.

Hedges opens the book with a quote from Blaise Pascal:  “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”  The author spends the rest of the book proving it.  As a Christian, Hedges is more or less a whistle blower, even though what the Dominionists are up to is common knowledge amongst freethinkers; but his main target audience isn’t atheists, it’s other believers he’s trying to talk some sense into.

In the ten chapters of the book, Hedges begins each with a microcosmic look at one individual and then expands on the point he’s trying to make.  I like this method because it puts a face on Christo-Fascism before the ideas and issues he’s illustrating come forth.

Chapter One, “Faith,” is about the only chapter in which Hedges discusses himself at any length, and he allows us to see how he came to be a “liberal” Christian.  His father, a preacher, made Chris start a gay and lesbian organization at Colgate University, even though Chris is not gay, simply because there was no such organization at Colgate and his dad thought there ought to be one.

While going through a long list of biblical contradictions and downright absurdities, Hedges stresses that doubt and belief can go hand in hand.  “Those who act without any doubt are frightening.”  He talks about the idealized values of America.  “These values, democratic and Christian, are being dismantled, often with stealth, by a radical Christian movement, known as dominionism, which seeks to cloak itself in the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism.”

The model these dominionists take for their “new world” is John Calvin’s reign over Geneva, Switzerland in the 1500’s.  THE FIFTEEN HUNDREDS.  You know what, these guys aren’t just talking about longer skirts, are they?  Calvin even sent his people into homes to make sure things were “right” and that all inhabitants were submissive to God and God’s messengers.

See The Institutes for Biblical Law (1973) by R. J. Rushdoony, the primary text of the dominionist movement, a sort of Christian “Mein Kampf.”  If you’ve read anything by horror writer Stephen King lately, this will scare you more!  It’s not exactly Catcher in the Rye or Portnoy’s Complaint.

Hedges quotes Henry Wallace, our Vice President in 1944, when asked, what is a fascist?

“They claim to be super patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.  They demand free enterprise but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.  Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed  is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjugation.”

Now, one thing Hedges teaches is that this movement is NOT a fundamentalist movement. If you thought Fundies were as far to the right as you could go with the Religious Right, you were wrong.  The Dominionists have them beat by a metric mile:  “While traditional fundamentalism shares many of the darker traits of the new movement, such as a blind obedience to a male hierarchy that often claims to speak for God, intolerance toward nonbelievers, and disdain for rational, intellectual inquiry, it has never attempted to impose its belief system on the rest of the nation.”  But one would suppose that the first group to join in with the crazies would be the Fundamentalists, right? It used to be that evangelism was intended to connect individuals not yet saved to a personal relationship with God; accepting God meant changing your heart.  What dominionists do is throw all of this out the window.  They couldn’t care less whether or not you’re “saved.”  They want your vote, your allegiance, your obedience, your submission.  They want to control you like a thing, like you’re not even human.  Just a tool or a stone with which they want to destroy our society. That is why their goal is not saving souls, it’s ruling over souls:  it’s fascistic totalitarianism plain and simple.

An important part of Dominionism is changing the language and the meaning of words.  Words like “truth,” “liberty,” “wisdom,” “freedom,” even “death,” “life” and “love” are given new meanings.  Wisdom means obedience to the new system of belief.  Love is obedience to those who claim to speak for God.  Liberty is allegiance to the Holy Spirit, “the extent to which America obeys Christian law.”  “This seemingly innocent hijacking of language mollifies opponents, the mainstream and supporters within the movement who fail to grasp the radical agenda.”  Sounds like George Orwell’s 1984.

Hedges describes how different Christian churches have varying opinions on dominionism; the frightening part is that Christians not directly involved will more than likely remain passive in the wake of dominionist action.  All others will be crushed or silenced.  If a church doesn’t preach dominionist thought, it’s not considered a Christian church by the movement.

“Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless…It does not want a dialogue.  It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion…This movement is bent on our destruction…These dominionists hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world they blame for the debacle of their lives.  They have one goal–its destruction.”

The link between laissez-faire capitalism and the Religious Right is clear:  the radical right will not only lobby against regulation of business and free enterprise, they have already placed many sympathetic people in high-ranking corporate positions; they have also invaded our government:  “The power brokers in the radical Christian Right have already moved from the fringes of society to the executive branch, the House of Representatives, the Senate and the courts.  The movement has seized control of the Republican Party.”  We can thank George Bush for bringing “faith-based initiatives” into government, and condemn Obama for not putting a stop to it.  They provide ways for government to give money to the churches without a technical violation of the law, it’s that simple.  But it is the worst abuse of the First Amendment in the last 20 years.  There are faith-based desks in almost every department of our government now.

Hedges ends the chapter with this:  “What is happening in America is revolutionary.  A group of religious utopians, with the sympathy and support of tens of millions of Americans, are slowly dismantling American institutions to establish a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism.”  The significance of a long-time reporter brought up in a tradition of “objective” journalism using this kind of language cannot be lost on us. I know it sounds impossible and looney.  It’s not.  Look around.  Take a look at Congress.  Take a look at the Supreme Court and some of Justice Scalia’s comments and speeches.  Take a look at major U.S. corporations and see how many of them are proselytizing their workers, how many have prayer groups and bible study.  Take a look at your child’s school and the textbooks she is using.  It’s happening.  They have to be stopped.

“The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil’s sake.  They commit evil to make a better world.  To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed.”  (p. 205)

December 2, 2014

Clapton is God!

Remember, if you can, the signs put up by fans in the stadiums where the British rock group Cream was playing in the late ’60’s?  “Clapton is God!”

Eric Clapton, who has enjoyed a long and varied career with the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends and a very full solo career, was the fastest, most technically perfect electric guitar player of his time, although a couple of years after Cream was formed he was joined by Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page as the best of the best guitar players.

It was the time of the Guitar Gods, and Clapton was at his physical peak.  Fans were so impressed with Eric’s guitar playing, he played so fast in a genre (blues/rock) where improvisation was at a premium, that they decided to call him “God.”  When Cream played in concert, they used their recordings as a home base; otherwise, they improvised and did long and wonderful solos and extended sets that were more bluesy than rock and roll.  Ginger Baker, the percussionist, came from a blues background, as did Jack Bruce, the bass player, who used a six-string guitar as opposed to the usual four-string base.  They innovated, invented, jammed and soared, and Clapton’s searing guitar riffs (have you ever heard Crossroads live?) and solos brought fans to near frenzy.  Can you imagine kids today going crazy over a jazz/rock/blues fusion like Cream?

Cream was not nearly as pretty as the Beatles or The Stones.  Band mates Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce did not exactly fall out of the pages of GQ Magazine, and fought frequently, even on stage.  Clapton’s talent and his music made him “God,” something the Beatles were never accused of or called by their mostly early teenage fans, even though their body of work is generally considered much better.  Clapton was simply the best at what he did, soaring high above his individual talent to a status only given to supernatural/fictional or fantasy entities.  He was all-powerful, all-knowing, and his music as recorded in concert and in the studio will last forever.  He was God.

Is music the new religion?  Are the Beatles (Katy Perry) more popular than Jesus?  The cult of the celebrity, combined with the music-worshipping younger set, has made a lot of guitar players and musicians, male and female, into gods and goddesses since the time of Clapton.  But what kind of gods and goddesses?  Is calling Clapton “God” a sacrilege?  Is he just an “idol” or is he really God?

“Music is my life” is what you hear a lot of people say.  They listen to music when they wake up, they plug in when they go for a jog, they play music while they eat and listen to as much as they can while they are working or attending school.  When they come home they unwind with their favorite songs or artists, projecting their emotions into the music and living vicariously through the lives and talents of their rock idols.  They daydream about being rock stars, rich and famous and bursting with talent and loaded up with 10’s on each arm.  When John Lennon said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, what he was talking about was that the teenage girls who screamed in his face and pulled their panties down in front of him spent more time listening to and thinking about the Beatles than they did Jesus or religion.  In fact, when the Beatles first appeared in America, on the Ed Sullivan show, fans did have to make a choice:  go to Sunday night church or watch the show (the Beatles initially appeared every week for three weeks at 7 p.m. CST).  Can you imagine some of those bible-thumping family feuds??

It is a violation of the Ten Commandments to have another god in place of the Old Testament God.  Do the rock idol worshippers care at all about this, and if so, are they thus chastened and admonished and racked with guilt, or have they truly replaced God in their hearts with Keisha or Blink 182?

The main reason Christianity hates rock ‘n roll is because of the religion’s unending obsession with sex.  A young woman, for example, under the influence of a rock idol, wants to be that person, wants to look like that person.  Her pastor looks askance at her dyed blond hair and her obviously enhanced bustline and lips as she walks past him, and he quickly drops a hand under his surplice and down his pants.  He has it figured out how to do this without anyone seeing.  He believes the “negro” rhythms of rock turn all young people into sexually aggressive beasts who fornicate with anyone at the drop of a hat.  She, on the other hand, is making the transition into adulthood, and the rock idol helps her accomplish this, bridging the gap between parents and adult role model.  Freud describes these early teenage years at puberty and just after as “the genital stage.”  Being a rock star solves all these pubescent problems:  everything else is within reach quickly–money, cars, sex, friends, drugs.  A rock star has immediate gratification simply because she has the money to buy it.

The Cult of Celebrity is an escape from the despair of the ordinary life, and for some people it’s all they have.  Depression, social dysfunction and anxiety are all related to intense hero worship; if the worship takes a milder form, such as collecting Beatles bubble gum cards or reading Teen Magazine, it’s actually somewhat healthy and tends to help young people bond and socialize with their peers.  It’s been suggested that young women between 14 and 16 are most susceptible, the primary cure being to simply wait until they turn 17!  By the time they are seniors in high school they are beginning to focus more on themselves and what their future will be like–thoughts about college, vocational school or employment after high school graduation are all part of this growing up process.

Those who take musician celebrities as life role models have already gone too far; these are just fallible people with talent, and to take a celebrity and base your entire daily existence around what that person is doing or saying, or finding out what the world thinks of her, goes too far towards externalizing one’s personality and leads to a low self-esteem; you forget about yourself.

To substitute Clapton or Madonna for the Christian God of Abraham is to replace a fairy tale with a dream that at least has the possibility of coming true, whereas the fairy tale, having a false basic assumption (that God exists), can never amount to anything other than becoming a conduit for abuse, self-abuse, learning how to hate and exclude others, and hatred and subjugation of women.  “Clapton is God” says more about the person who painted the sign than about Clapton himself.  It’s harmless up to a point, it’s absolutely healthy if you’re substituting the God of the Bible with someone who actually exists (but the negatives begin rather quickly after this stage), so why burst the bubble?

I personally like Cradle of Filth, opera, and the Pet Shop Boys; I listen to all of them on a daily basis but I don’t obsess over them.  If I had to pick a “god” from this group I would definitely choose Daniel Lloyd Davey, otherwise known as Dani Filth (or Lord Filth, which I prefer), the lead screecher of COF.  He is one of the most impressive rock lyricists ever (which is ironic since I like the fact you can’t really hear the words in COF songs), and the longevity and vitality of the band is largely due to his talent.  But I know Dani is a family man and leads a perfectly normal existence out of makeup; I don’t care about any of that, it’s his talent that interests me and holds my attention and earns my admiration.  Dani is the king of black metal.

Lord Filth it is, then.  If you listen you will come.

November 30, 2014

American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges, Part One

“Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told us that when we were his age–he was then close to 80–we would all be fighting the ‘Christian Fascists.’  

“The warning, given to me nearly 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government.  Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global Christian empire…The Nazis (Adams said) were not going to return with brown shirts and swastikas.  Their ideological inheritors in America had found a mask for fascism in patriotism and the pages of the Bible.”

Chris Hedges, a journalist with the New York Times, a writer, a clergyman and a Christian activist, has written this book as a warning to fellow Christians and others about a radical Religious Right political movement known popularly as Dominionism because it is based on the interpreted biblical instruction that Christians should take dominion over the world.

Although Hedges mentions many areas of interest for the radical takeover of our society, he never explicitly mentions what has previously been identified as the “Seven Mountains of Influence,” which we wrote about in this blog some time ago.  According to the master plan, which has been in motion ever since about 1970 (and they have been working steadily and frantically ever since), there are seven areas of our society (the family, the government, the media, arts and entertainment, business, education and the military) they want to take over, and once done, they should have complete control over every American’s life, thoughts and actions, the government will be run by the church, all schools will be Christian schools, and anyone who doesn’t convert or otherwise play ball will be considered less than human and either deported, imprisoned or executed.

Total dominion.  Total domination of every aspect of your life.  Totalitarianism.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Here we have a religion, Christianity, supposedly a religion of love and compassion and charity, supposedly a comfort to our nation’s families at least once a week from the rat race of everyday life, supposedly a benign influence on politics and business, and it’s suddenly become the greatest threat to our nation’s internal security we have ever faced.

Consider something else:  70 per cent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.  About the same percentage don’t believe in evolution; more than half of them believe in Revelation end times, as well as the literal truth of the Bible.  This is a lot of people who are seriously deluded, and those, like the author, who actually think for themselves and who are considered as much of an enemy as unbelievers, Jews and Muslims, are very concerned about exactly how much of this the extremists can pull off, especially in light of recent successes such as the increase in the number of Christian schools and in the number of Fundamentalist Christians in Congress making our laws, to mention just two areas.

I always imagined myself advocating the overthrow of the government as part of a large, grass-roots movement and seeing the country broken up into smaller, more manageable units, down to self-sustaining, self-governing communities; I never thought I’d have to spend my time helping to fight off a wave of neo-Fascism led by Christian Fundamentalists whose main leaders look like little old ladies in fright wigs!

The book, which reads like a standard text written by an atheist, is full of facts and meaningful individual stories and quotes that reveal some of the people behind the dominionist movement and others who carry the banner.  Hedges spends a lot of time insightfully analyzing the thought process behind this movement and how the leaders and self-identified “prophets” are laying the psychological groundwork for the movement to succeed.  Remember, ever since the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, with the women’s movement and court decisions on school prayer and abortion, there have been many dedicated people working hard to bring this about, and they’ve been achieving by attrition the slow dismantling of the separation between church and state, they’ve placed CEO’s at the head of large corporations like Hobby Lobby and Tyson, they’ve been successful in some states at placing textbooks that teach intelligent design, they’ve renewed the ancient system of patriarchy through the Quiverfull movement, home-schooling and the school voucher program, they’ve killed several abortion doctors, they now have the largest cable news network (Fox News, or Faux News to those who aren’t fair and balanced), they have at least one Fundamentalist nut case on our Supreme Court (Scalia) and they’ve managed to turn high-ranking military men and women into Christian proselytizers working on enlisted men and women on a daily basis to convert.

Hedges is unabashedly fearful and is playing a Cassandra role in his reporting based on what he has seen and heard.  Because he’s a Christian, he managed to get into many places a freethinker would not have, such as the National Association of Religious Broadcasters convention, as well as a convention hosted by end times Left Behind author Timothy LaHaye.  That is why the book is so valuable and unique.  It’s not just another atheist taking pot shots at the chosen ones from his home library in front of a computer.  Hedges really got his hands dirty; I guess that’s why he’s an award-winning journalist.

Part 2 will go into the book in detail.  See you then.

November 29, 2014

Us Versus Them–The Extreme Paranoia of the Binary Christian Right

One of the hallmarks of totalitarianism is to create an “us versus them” mentality amongst the followers, whether it’s a sect, a cult, or a political party.  This allows them to bond together, and demonizes all others.  The Christian Right Christo-Fascist has this in common with neo-conservatives:  everything is seen in black and white, yes or no, good or evil, human and sub-human (trust that there are those in the movement who actually believe that all outsiders are less than worthy to even live, let alone be left alone).

This binary world view is irrational, of course, but then again the church never has been interested in Reason.  It is based on a distrust and contempt for plurality and multiculturalism, a view that is both profoundly racist and elitist at the same time, but I also think a part of it is that they just don’t want to get too confused! If you are not for them, you are against them; if you are not like them, you either must become one of them or you are an infidel, even if you’re a liberal Christian.  It is the possibility of conversion that is held out as a bone to the rest of the world to save themselves.  That is why they demonize gays instead of accepting the fact that gays are gay because they were born that way and not socialized, tricked or seduced into that sexual orientation.  They condemn homosexuals for their lifestyle and their wild descriptions of illicit sexual behavior (one pastor stated the average male gay has 500 sexual partners in his lifetime!), when in reality what they really condemn them for is forgoing fatherhood and punching out babies in the Christian family.  Secondly, if they did finally accept the fact that gays do not choose to be gay, they would appear mean-spirited for not allowing them into that same Christian family (and they wouldn’t, again because they do not reproduce).

This either/or ontology is one of the problems we’ve been facing in the U.S. Congress since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.  When the Tea Party was started by the billionaire Koch Brothers (the urban legend has it that the Tea Party was formed in some middle-class working Christian’s kitchen over coffee and donuts), the last thing they wanted to show was that the group was formed because Obama is black.  He is also a Democrat.  But, hey, why would you form a “grass roots” revolutionary (or, in their perception, counter-revolutionary) movement just because the others guys won the election?  They didn’t do that when Clinton won, and the radical right has been in motion since the late ’60’s and early ’70’s after the Supreme Court decisions on school prayer and abortion.  No, they resented Obama because he was elected by Americans because of his promises of “Hope and Change,” his early installation of White House advisors with former connections to radical groups (Van Jones), and for the “socialism” he was feared to be pulling us towards with a universal health care plan, a plan that clearly did not go far enough to solve the nation’s health care problems because, while it may have “socialized” insurance to a small extent, it did nothing to drive down medical costs.  The only way to do that is to nationalize the major drug companies:  and to do that would be like exploding a nuclear bomb on Fifth Avenue.  But maybe then that $60,000 injection might actually be billed for the $5 it’s worth.  And then, maybe, it was those black welfare moms bragging about their “Obama money” in food lines in Detroit!

Radical Christians do not want us to have any “hope” unless it’s within the compass of their purview, unless it’s plainly in biblical terms and concerning our relationship with God; and they are so afraid of “change” that they still haven’t accepted evolution as scientific fact, putting science education in the U.S. 200 years behind everyone else.  They do not want us to learn or progress.  In fact, what they really want is for us to regress about 2500 years to Old Testament times, live under Old Testament law, and hasten the destruction of the world with the return of Jesus Christ from his paradisiacal vacation beyond the ozone layer.  And so Obama, from the beginning, was a real threat to them, and not just because he was not like them because of his skin color.  I mean, come on, how much lower can you go in demonizing someone than by challenging their birth certificate??  They thought they had this guy’s number before he had his first wet dream!

Now that there are enough radical Christians in Congress to bring virtually everything to a halt and they are getting what they want (Ted Cruz, the arch-conservative/Christo-Fascist  who won a Republican seat in the Senate from Texas is an avowed creationist and Dominionist and is actually actively seeking a government shutdown), they are crying foul when Obama does an end-around and files an Executive Order to get some action on one issue or another.  They do not want anything to get done, and Obama, by doing his Executive orders and actions, is getting something done, and so they cry and sue.  No, what they want is for government to not only stand still, but to go backwards in time, back to the “Christian” roots of this nation, and then farther still, back to the time of the fictional character called Moses.  These people have so bought into the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation, they refuse to recognize the reality that most of the founding fathers were Deists (after the Prime Mover made his Primary Move he went on permanent vacation), not Christians, and that there’s not a single mention of God or religion in the Constitution.  What do they claim instead?  That there’s no such thing as the separation of church and state.  Put on the blinders, let’s go for a ride!

There are two ranges of ages for which an either/or mentality seems to obtain most readily:  children and the very old and losing it.  What do kids do when they don’t get their way?  They throw tantrums, they call names, they exhibit irrational behavior that has no connection with reality, there is no such thing as in between or compromise.  Pretty much the same can be said for a 90-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease.  That’s where the Religious Right has led its minions, and millions.  Those who cannot think for themselves let someone else do it for them, and the majority of radical right followers have surrendered their reason, their free will, their doubts and inquisitiveness, all of their powers of ratiocination to church leaders; they will tell them what’s right and wrong, what’s true or false, who is good and who is evil, and because they are trapped in this childish world of either/or and binary epistemologies, there is nothing left to talk about, only to throw tantrums over.  They are not only owned, they are enslaved, and gladly so, because they are able to escape the responsibilities of someone who does not look at life in either/or terms, someone who thinks his way through the difficulties of this life.  They have taken the notion that we are all God’s children and made it literal.

The Tea Party in Congress, along with other neo-con Republicans, do not compromise.  It’s not that they can’t, they won’t.  They believe that if they hold out long enough, the other side will cave in and give up.  There have been many times, however, when this did not happen, in particular when the government was running out of operating money.  Congress rarely does anything anymore except extend or delay.  One of the results has been the use of the Executive Order/Action by the president in order to get things done; this has the outward appearance of a dictatorship, and members of Congress have gone to court over this issue.  But what choice does the president have when something needs to be done and Congress fails to act because its member cannot agree on anything?  Yet they whine, complain and file their lawsuits, when all they had do in the first place was the job they got elected to do.

There was a recent news story about parents whose child told them he was gay at about age 12.  The couple listened to the advice of their church leaders and instead of accepting and understanding their child, sent him to “reparative therapy,” which, of course, didn’t work because it couldn’t.  As their child grew older he developed several addictions and sunk into a deep depression, eventually resulting in his suicide.  Now the couple says they are sorry they ever listened to their church in the first place.  The church took the position that a gay child could not be their child anymore–he either had to change his sexual preference to heterosexual (making him a candidate, of course, for fatherhood) or they should no longer consider him their child.

It’s a deadly game and people get hurt.

November 26, 2014

Offense or Defense for Anarchists and Atheists?

A book called American Fascists is in front of me right now, and I’ve just started reading it.

It’s written by a Christian who is warning his readers about the dangers of radical Religious Right Dominionists, something we’ve explored here many times over.  A dominionist is a Christian who takes the phrase that man shall have dominion over the earth seriously.  A small fringe group of radical Christians believes that our society should live under a theocracy, with Old Testament law doling out Old Testament punishments.  These are the folks behind the radical right in our Congress:  The Tea Party, etc.

The author states in the first few pages that once the Soviets (communists) were taken out of the picture in 1989, the Religious Right began focusing, and is still focusing now, on secular humanism, a euphemism for “atheism.”

He wonders why they are so fearful of an organization called the American Secular Humanist Society, because it only has about 3000 members who are about as powerful as “militant vegetarians.”

He’s right.  I guess we better focus on defense with such a puny team.  Defense against the continuing barrage of victimhood, homophobia, racism, threats against unbelievers, home-schoolers, the Quiverfull movement (a full quiver of arrows, the arrows being those same children who are home-schooled), of opposition to any and all hate-crimes laws, of the return of patriarchy that strongly resembles Islam, with rules about a woman’s clothing and behavior, ad infinitum.

“What is happening in America is revolutionary.   A group of religious utopians, with the sympathy and support of tens of millions of Americans, are slowly dismantling democratic institutions to establish a religious tyranny, the springboard to an American fascism.”  Chris Hedges, American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War on America

We need to be on our guard and do whatever we can in our own communities to fight the takeover of the Religious Right.  This small group already owns six major cable news networks and about a third of our Congress (they are working on the rest of the Republicans, who now have a majority in both houses).  They practically own the military.  They have infiltrated, over the last 40 years, major corporations, their people climbing up the ladder to CEO positions and who are now basing hiring and employment decisions on allegiance to Christianity, are forming prayer and bible study groups for supervisors as well as line workers, on company time, and who hold the strings of this country’s economic future.

They will lie about their past.  Chris Hedges, the author of American Fascism, points out that the late reverend Jerry Falwell preached repeatedly against integration and the civil rights movement in the ’60’s, preached hatred against Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali and other prominent African American heroes of that time, but subsequently burned all of his sermons from that era, as it is now expedient for Christians to claim a major role in the civil rights movement and the changes it brought about for our black American brothers and sisters.  That’s a lie.  Christians were bigoted, racist and obstructionist, for the most part, during the ’60’s.

They seek to change our vocabulary slowly and incrementally.  Words like freedom and liberty no longer mean what they used to mean.  “Freedom” is freedom to be in Christ, for example.  Everything relates back pre-suppositionally to the Bible and radical Christian Right core values.  In other words, those words and others that are part of our American roots have no value except as they relate to a relationship with God.

Although creationism has crept into Texas school rooms in the past decade, it is heartening to see what a big deal it is for freethinkers in these parts to attend the State School Board annual meetings where textbooks and textbook content are discussed.  They voice their opposition to teaching our children ignorance and bad science.  Unfortunately, common sense will tell you that because Texas is so big, many of the book publishers do their books for Texas and then ship to the rest of the states that same textbook, based on Texas-mandated content.  So kids in California might sit down one day to study cosmology and be reading about a Prime Mover or a First Cause alongside Stephen Hawking’s explanation of the Big Bang.

This is what needs to happen all over.  Don’t leave it to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other watch dog groups for the separation of church and state.  If your kid tells you the coach is leading prayers before games, report it.  If there is a picture of Jesus in your child’s social studies room, report it.  If the school is loaning its facilities to a start-up church on Sundays, make known your opposition.

And here we have what could be the Achilles heel of radical nut jobs.  A start-up church is most likely the organization that will ask a school for a place to hold services.  The reason it is a start-up church is because there was a schism or division within some other mainstream church that led some of its congregation to break off and form its own church with its own leader or pastor, and they do not yet have the funds to even rent a hall or room.  The Religious Right is counting on right-wing Catholics, Jews and conservative blacks to pad their numbers.  These factions have fought long and hard in the past, and they will in the future.  So part of the work we have to do is easy:  wait and see.  When will the back biting begin?  When will divisions develop?  How much damage will those divisions incur?  And will the Christians of the far right  continue to attack charismatics and other Christians who haven’t gone “all the way” with the dominionist program?  Will they now attack married women who practice celibacy or don’t want to have children?

Defense, that’s the play call for now.

November 25, 2014

Infidel

A truly important and courageous book by a former Muslim, Infidel tells the story of Ayaan Hirsi (Magan) Ali, a woman who escaped from Islam (although Islam is still hunting her), and began a new life in Holland, achieving a seat in Parliament and becoming a world-famous lecturer and author.

Ayaan, who went from membership in the Muslim Brotherhood (and if you want to learn about the Muslim Brotherhood, much in discussion vis-a-vis the Egyptian revolution, this is a book that discusses and illuminates it adequately, leading one to further reading) to freethinker, and so much so to the point where many consider her to be occupying the spot formerly held by the now dearly departed New Enlightenment/New Atheism hero Christopher Hitchens, along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett and Sam Harris, together known as the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism.

Ayaan exposes Islam for what it truly is:  a stagnant, repressive, misogynistic, murderous religion of violence against its own women and all unbelievers.  Her main focus is on the treatment of Muslim women, how they are taught from childhood what is expected of them, how to act, how to step into a bathroom, how to step out, how many layers of clothing to wear, how to behave towards their male family members, and later, their husbands.  Genital mutilation is a serious and violent act against women that is still practiced today, probably right down the street from you, by practicing Muslims.

LET ME REPEAT THAT:  FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IS STILL PRACTICED BY MUSLIMS, IN ARAB COUNTRIES AS WELL AS IN COUNTRIES THEY EMIGRATE TO.

Ayaan herself was mutilated at the age of six; her clitoris was cut with a scissors, and then her labia were sewn shut (to be opened only by her husband on her wedding night!) with only a small opening left for urination.  Many children die from infection and other causes from the procedure alone; some die later; but this violent and horrible act is in accordance with the Koran, which is why it is still done.  In fact, Ayaan was teased in school by other girls before she had the procedure done.

The second major point she makes in the book is that Islam is only a religion of peace and friendship in terms of Muslims.  All others, that is, all people who are not Muslims, including those, like Ali, who are apostate, are CONDEMNED TO DEATH BY ALLAH.  The Koran instructs Muslims to conquer the world and eliminate the infidels.  This means, and this is something I have stated repeatedly and publicly, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Muslim community, and to appeal to such a non-entity is a waste of time and breath.  If a Muslim is truly a Muslim, then he follows the Koran, and the Koran is not by any means “moderate” in its treatment of outsiders.

(One must then ask, is this also true of Christianity when the Bible is given a literalist reading: “anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.  The entire assembly must stone them.  Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death,” Leviticus 24:16?  The radical Christian Right believes that any so-called Christian who does not read, believe and live the Bible literally is as bad as an infidel.  So where is the difference between Christianity and Islam?)

The only ways Muslims can escape this destiny is through death or renunciation of their faith, which is tantamount to a death sentence.

Who will send the killers after an apostate Muslim?  The infidel’s own family, for one.  Born a Somali, Ayaan moved about, to Ethiopia and Kenya, due to her mother’s financial exigencies after she was abandoned by her husband, Ayaan’s father.  Clans rule in Arab countries, and some clans have thousands of members; everyone is expected to trace their ancestors back eight generations, and children are taught to recite those names when asked.  Clan members take care of one another, make sure that wives and husbands are acting correctly and in accordance with the Koran.  But they also administer punishments and social stigmatism against those who disobey.

Honor killings still go on.  When a Muslim girl picks the wrong boyfriend or marries the wrong man (not picked by her family), or does something else to bring shame and dishonor on her family, the family has the right to kill her according to Islamic law; it is only in Western societies where such killings, if discovered, are punishable.  One of Ali’s contributions to Dutch law as a legislator was to get the police to keep a count of honor killings in Holland, which had not been done.  Citizens and legislators alike were stunned when the figures were compiled.  In Holland, honor killings were being carried out by Muslim immigrant families, just as genital mutilation was, and still is.

Ayaan finally escaped from her mother’s beatings and a school system which taught the Koran exclusively as its only subject by marrying a man her father had picked out for her.  She agreed to the marriage (even though she was not actually present, and was not required to be present, at the ceremony!).  Her new husband had family in Canada, which is where he planned to send his new wife, and en route, Ayaan escaped first into Germany and then into Holland, where she was given resident status after several months.  Even though she changed her name, her family hunted her down and met with her, asking her to return to Somalia and to obedience to Islam.  She refused.  Heavy security at the camp where she was staying probably prevented the men she met with from killing her then and there.

Ayaan went to school to learn Dutch, the only way for her to get a good education.  Once proficient, she became a valuable translator at the immigrant camps, where many Somalis, fleeing a civil war in that country, were staying while they awaited news on their status.  She then put herself through college and graduated with a degree in political science.  After getting a job with the Labor Party, she began to write letters to the editor, articles, and make public speaking appearances on the subject of immigrants in Holland, specifically Muslim immigrants.

Which brings us to Ali’s third major point in her book:  instead of catering to the ethnicities of immigrants by giving them money for Muslim schools, mosques, community centers and so forth, where Muslims continued to learn as they had in their former countries, Ali believed immigrants should be weaned away from the old ways and into Dutch society; for one thing, it would prevent much of the physical abuse of Muslim women which continued throughout their immigrant status at the hands of their husbands; it would place taboos on honor killings and excisions; it would give Muslim women something to do that was meaningful.  In other words, Ali was telling the Dutch government that all they were doing by giving Muslim immigrants everything they wanted was digging their own graves–fundamentalists were bound to emerge from such cliques and do real harm.  Remember, a good Muslim obeys Allah and kills all infidels wherever they are.

This is something that liberals like Ben Affleck (see video of his clash with Bill Maher and Sam Harris over Islam) refuse to acknowledge:  plurality is just window-dressing a dangerous future.  Integration is the key.  Acclimatization to new ways, new ideas, new modes of thought and expression are essential to creating a country like America, where immigrants from virtually every other land came together and formed a nation.  If you have, and cater to, groups that refuse to integrate, that continue in their barbaric rituals and harbor the same dangerous thoughts of martyrdom and murder, all you are doing is creating a security risk for everyone else.

Ali states that Islam is the religion of the hereafter.  Everything depends on your relationship with Allah, because if you are obedient you are assured of going to heaven and enjoying paradise forever.  In the secular West (except for the U.S., where 80 per cent are Christians and probably 95 per cent believe in God), the emphasis is mostly on the here and now–what can I do to live a better life and help others to live better lives?  To think only of your role in the hereafter cheapens life on earth.

After a video written by Ayaan and directed by entertainer Theo van Gogh was aired on Dutch television, Ayaan was swept away in a whirlwind of security.  Particularly after the murder of van Gogh shortly after the video aired, with a note stabbed into his chest for Ali, threatening her life.  The arm of Islam is long, and those who, like Ali and Salmon Rushdie, show disrespect and make a perceived insult, are often targeted for death by imams and ayatollahs.

Ali eventually left Dutch politics and is now living and teaching in the U.S. at Harvard University.  She has several other books dealing with the plight of the Muslim female and the religion of Islam, so check it out.  Infidel was a really good read–it’s not exactly the life and times of Benny Hill, but I found I got sucked in by the power of the images Ali created.

November 23, 2014

Emma Goldman, One Tough Old Bird!

Anarchism is:  “The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestrained by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.”  Emma Goldman, Mother Earth, April, 1910

I would submit that the major female figure in American culture and society in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the possible exception, perhaps,  of Margaret Sanger, was Emma Goldman, born in Russia in 1869, and a born-again anarchist in the United States.

Goldman was not only what would normally be described as a “political thinker,” she was also a philosopher, an activist, not only as an anarchist but as a unionist and feminist, a freethinker and a virtual “mother” to the 20th Century American Enlightenment, a friend to some of the most important early century thinkers, writers and activists, both here and abroad.  She was so effective that she was deported by the United States government, in its eternal blindness and hostility to ex-officio greatness.  But more on that later.

Goldman emigrated to the U.S. at a young age, having already experienced the repressions of the Czarist government in Russia; her first job was working in a factory in Russia, and interestingly enough, so was her second job, in the U.S., working in a sweatshop for $2 a day.  Welcome to America, land of the slave, home of the cowed!  The Haymarket bombing occurred in 1887, just a year after Emma arrived in the U.S., and as a worker, she took the side of the radicals and supported the accused, most of whom were hanged in 1889, some of them just for being anarchists and nowhere near the crime scene.

These hangings, you may find, were the foundation upon which the modern American radical/anarchist/freethinker platform is based.  Many, many people were spurred into both contemplation and action over this event, the repercussions of which can still be felt today.

Moving to New York in late 1889, Emma met anarchist leaders Alexander Berkman and John Most, and it was under the tutelage of Most that Emma started to bloom, reading voraciously, leading discussion groups, doing work as a union organizer (the most noble of all professions in the U.S., bar none!) and after just a few months began to appear before various meetings and speak her mind.  All this while continuing to work in another sweatshop for meager wages.

Goldman and Berkman were determined to help striking workers at a Carnegie Steel Plant; Berkman attempted to assassinate the plant manager, Frick, but failed, and in doing so created a backlash against the revolutionary movement.  He was tried without a lawyer and sentenced to 22 years in prison, saying “To remove a tyrant is an act of liberation, the giving of life and opportunity to an oppressed people.”  If you’ve ever worked for the U.S. Postal Service, you will know exactly what he’s talking about.

Goldman continued the fight, organizing, setting up soup kitchens, and speaking out.  At a mass rally at Union Square she declared, “They will go on robbing you, your children, and your children’s children, unless you wake up, unless you become daring enough to demand your rights…”  Following that speech, she was arrested–for the speech.  Although the gathering was peaceful, she was arrested for “inciting to riot” and sentenced to one year in prison.

After she got out of prison she travelled to Europe to learn nursing, while continuing to lecture in Great Britain and making connections with leading anarchists in London and elsewhere.  In 1896 she returned to New York and from there embarked on a nation-wide speaking tour:  “The masses were millions, yet how weak!  To awaken them from their stupor, to make them conscious of their power–that is the great need!”  She gave speeches in Yiddish, German and English and lectured for over 20 years, lecturing not only on anarchism and politics, but also freethinking, birth control and other social issues.  She was beaten and arrested numerous times, and in virtually every case the instigators were the police and local government officials, pressuring owners to cancel her appearances or refusing to rent her a hall, hiring thugs to thrash the audience and start fights and riots:

“In no country, Russia not exempt, would the police dare to exercise such brutal power over the lives of men and women.  In no country would the people stand for such beastliness and vulgarity.  Nor do I know of any people who have so little regard for their own manhood and self-respect as the average American citizen, with all his boasted independence.”

These words are as true today as they were at the turn of the 20th century.  Americans are sheep:  as long as they have some warmth and food, their cable TVs and National Enquirer and their automobiles and some crummy little job that pays them slave wages–just enough to get by so they can have their pizzas and their Fox News–they don’t want anyone or anything to disturb them out of their moral and political somnolence.  They spend their lives in fear, cowed into silence by the fear they will lose what little they have, stewing in ignorance because some TV preacher told them that ignorance is bliss, afraid of being pushed out of their corners and into the light of inquiry, investigation, rational thought, contemplation and change.  They think they are free but they are not–they are slaves to their jobs, to the nuclear family, to debt, to their religions–and theirs is the worst crime of all, a life badly lived, spent in the chains of their own thoughts.

Her enemies included, not only the vast majority of the press, but also the president, Theodore Roosevelt, a butcher and mass murderer in Cuba, the Phillipines and elsewhere, who said:  “The Anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is the deeper degree of criminality than any other.”  This from the leader of a supposed “free” country with freedom of expression.  Demonizing the opponent has since been co-opted by the Religious Right and others, but to say that an anarchist is worse than being a murderer?  Roosevelt, the pot, was calling the kettle black.  Theodore Roosevelt:  a bum, a bully, a mass murderer, an ignorant swine.  And today he’d be elected all over again in a New York minute by the “average” American.

When President McKinley was assassinated, Goldman was actually arrested just for being in the country, and later released due to lack of evidence.  Many American liberals and Jeffersonians at this point took up Emma’s cause and provided financial and other support for her speaking tours and her daily needs.

Emma, with financial help from libertarians, became a publisher.  Her journal, Mother Earth (1906-1917) was one of the first of its kind, an anarchist publication with articles, short stories, poems and cartoons.  The tables-full of tract literature and pamphlets was one of the prime attractions to her public appearances; she also published Berkman’s Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist when no one else would load it up.  It is actually a great book, full of life and vinegar.

During the latter part of her lifetime, she published other books and memoirs.  A disciple of anarchist heroes Bakunin and Kropotkin, she never failed to carry the anarchist banner, perceiving civilization as “a continuous struggle of the individual or of groups of individuals against the State and even against ‘society,’ that is, against the majority subdued and hypnotized by the State and State worship.”  Again, we could say this today about our own society of sheep and our own brand of totalitarianism, the only question being, where are these people we need so desperately combatting the status quo, other than freethinkers and a handful of home-grown revolutionaries and “crackpots”?

Goldman and Berkman were again imprisoned in 1917 for speaking out against U.S. involvement in the War.  Specifically, it was illegal to discourage anyone from avoiding the military draft into the armed services.  President Wilson created a virtual no-criticism zone of the entire country and imprisoned those who spoke their minds.  Nothing less than totalitarianism, the suppression of the freedom of speech for the sake of national violence in time of war.  War is when the Haves send the Have-nots to die in battle for more land or more oil and other resources.  Whether thrown into internment camps or sent to the Gulag, it makes no difference to the reigning majority:  all dissent must be silenced.

In 1919, Emma and Berkman were deported to Russia, along with 247 others.  Although excited at the prospect of seeing the Russian Revolution at work, they soon became disenchanted at the authoritarian nature of the new government let by Trotsky and Lenin.  They left for Sweden after 20 months in Russia, their dreams of a true leadership of the proletariat shattered.  She then spent time in Europe, becoming an English citizen by virtue of a marriage of convenience to James Colton, and found that her message denouncing the Bolsheviks fell on deaf ears.  Her autobiography, My Life, appeared in 1932.

Touring for speaking engagements again, Goldman correctly predicted the destructiveness of the Nazis and warned all Europe to pay attention to the dangers of Hitler and his shock troops.  After a brief stay back in the U.S., Goldman returned to France, where Berkman committed suicide because of his poor health, and Emma soon took up the cause of the Spanish Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War of 1937-38.

In 1940, in Canada, she died.

Emma always attracted hundreds and thousands of people to her lectures, demonstrations, speeches and debates.  She was arrested, many times over, for inciting riots and for distributing information on birth control.  Did you get that?  She was arrested for exercising her freedom of speech on the subject of birth control.  She was arrested many times for instructing other women on how to take control of their lives and reduce their subjection to males and their slavery to the cycle of childbirth and then to child-rearing.

Emma Goldman was an idealist, an anarchist, a defender of the working man and woman, an advocate for women’s rights, an anti-war advocate, a lecturer, a writer, a publisher, an icon.  Too long ignored by modern-day Americans, it is hoped that one day we will all recognize the huge contributions and selfless devotion of this woman to the cause of freedom, liberty and equality.  Her “propaganda of the deed” has always been the best advice to anyone who wants to change the way things are:  get out of that armchair and get in the fight.

November 20, 2014

Is Atheism a Religion?

There was a recent post on this web site concerning the growing proliferation of atheist churches globally.  We disagree with this trend, considering this to be an embarrassment to the atheist movement, as is the awakening “spirituality” of Sam Harris, one of the reputed Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse.  See Waking Up:  A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.

Atheism is also known as “freethinking.”  An atheist is a “freethinker” for the simple reason that such a person is free from the bonds of mental slavery to religion.  Religion asks that one eschews reason for faith.  In the book of Genesis, the primary sin committed by Adam and Eve was eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  Knowledge, reason and wisdom are anathema to the Christian religion.  It remains one of the main reasons why American children continue to lag behind the rest of the world in science and math.  A reported 80 per cent of Americans believe in God.

So that last thing a freethinker would admit to being would be a member of a religion, any religion.

Freethinkers don’t necessarily believe anything.  They LACK belief in god or gods or some other supernatural, super-powerful entity.  This “lack” does not constitute membership in a religion.  What it does constitute is freedom from religion, freedom from a faith that denies the power of reason, a faith that distrusts science and scientists, a faith that enslaves the believer with yokes of guilt and sin and self-hatred.  And especially the hatred of women.

Now, consider the recent decision of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, where they ruled in a Wisconsin prison case that atheism IS a religion even though it lacks the belief in a Supreme Being.  An inmate wanted to start an atheist study group because various religions already had their own study groups within the prison.  It is felt that the ruling bent the board a little bit in order to give the inmates their study group, and in doing so declared atheism a “religion,” but there was also legal precedent.

A 1961 case, Torcaso v. Watkins, resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that “secular humanism,” another euphemism for atheism, is a religion.

By this reasoning, logical positivism, existentialism, Marxism, Mao-ism, etc. are all religions.  However, in the Wisconsin case the Court made it clear that it considered atheism “on a par” with systems of religion.

Freethinkers who wish to continue to go to their “atheist church” can go right ahead.  But remember this:  the more trappings of religion we assume, the more others will assume that atheism is just another religion competing for converts.

Freethinkers deserve more credit than that.

November 19, 2014

There’s Nothing Wrong With Christmas…

There is nothing wrong with atheists celebrating Christmas.  Although atheists and followers of political correctness in their speech most often refer to this period of time as “the holidays,” atheists should not be uncomfortable about spending “Christmas” with their families and other loved ones or having a good time “just because” it’s the end of December.  If church or prayers are involved at some point, do the polite thing:  be a hypocrite, just for a few minutes or hours.  It’s more fun to be part of the party than to be a party-pooper.

After all, Christmas started out being celebrated in early pre-Christian times, having absolutely nothing to do with the actual date of the birth of Jesus Christ, which is completely unknown (of course, there are those Scrooges who will note that there is no historical record of a Jesus Christ from Nazareth, which throws much doubt on the utter fact of his existence at all).

Up until late in the fourth century, January 6th (The Celebration of the Epiphany) was the big day, although the emphasis there was on celebrating the baptism of the Christ child.  However, it is believed in folklore that he was conceived on March 25th, and nine months later is December 25th.  His “birthday” coincides with the Roman winter solstice festival, otherwise known as “Saturnalia,” and some of the pagan festival elements remain, such as gift giving during Saturnalia or the Yule log during Yule, a pagan Scandinavian festival.

It was during Constantine’s reign in early Christian fourth century Rome that many of the trimmings of the pagan festivals were assimilated into a celebration of the birth of the “Sun of righteousness.”

In the middle ages, Christmas was sort of a carnival, like Mardi Gras, but by the 19th century it had settled down into a family-oriented holiday.  Well, most families.  Our ancestors, the Puritans, frequently outlawed the celebration of Christmas because of its early associations with pagan rituals and festivals.  Christmas was banned in Boston by the Puritans for about two decades in the late 17th century.  My personal feeling is that the Puritans found it just too darn sexy.

One thing that’s always puzzled me:  if the birth of Christ was such a phenomenon, with gifts from the Magi and his own star, etc., and if this birth took place on or around December 25th, why was it not celebrated every year thereafter, and not until 300 years later?  Why did the disciples or, later, the “authors” of the gospels not carry out a celebration of Jesus’ birth?  I would suggest that the early Christians, in developing the legend of the Christ, took several centuries before they even set a date to celebrate, as part of the growing tradition, and as oral stories got written down; only further evidence that the historical Jesus did not exist.  His legend grew as the story grew.

Most of the New Testament is devoted to the preaching Jesus, riding into town on a donkey, like John Wayne .  “Naw, Pilgrim, somethin’ real ugly gonna pack it for ya if ya don’t stop that commercializin’ on the temple steps!”  And his early life is pretty much glossed over, other than being hidden when Herod went on his bloody rampage.

Well, this blog is about Christmas, not about Jesus (which is pretty much how most Christians celebrate the holiday as well! A pathetic, disgusting orgy of excess, gluttony, hypocrisy and commercialization)  It was a done deal after Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a mainly secular portrait of the holiday, with merry-making, presents, family gatherings and tons and tons of food.  After that, everyone wanted their Christmas to be just like Tiny Tim’s!

Whatever you call the holiday, there’s no reason to un-plug the phone and barricade the house for a week if you’re a freethinker.  Just think of it as another party, only this time with family and close friends instead of Mike, Bill and Fuzzy from the Antlers Tavern Bowling League.  We won’t mention Rosemary.

When I was a little boy, I used to sneak downstairs after being the first to awaken, to see if Santa Claus had eaten his cookies and refreshed himself with a little milk.  He always had.  I had been told the presents he brought for me would vanish if I touched them before the allotted time, so I tried to guess what all my presents were by looking at the shape of the boxes and imagining what they could be.  I got a little smarter after we got a puppy.  Puppies love to tear things up, and they don’t get in trouble for it!

Is Santa Claus a god-figure, a metaphor for the socio-religious idol of superstition and fantasy?  Think about some of his attributes:  he is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful;  he is immortal; he judges children and tell them to obey their parents; he sits on a throne.  Just goes to show you:  show me a human, I’ll show you the beginnings of a god.

November 18, 2014

Why giving to charity is a bad choice…

A recent news story in Austin, Texas, revealed that a charity called “Texas VFW” had been soliciting donations as part of a global network, and that over eighty per cent of donation dollars go to administration costs (this is always a euphemism that can be roughly translated as “the CEO’s new house, new car, bank account, drugs or mistress”).  The amount is more likely almost 100 per cent.

Much noise has been made about the conspicuous absence of the Red Cross from Hurricane Sandy relief on the East Coast of the U.S. a couple of years ago.  The Red Cross!  You gotta figure, if the Red Cross can’t come through, who can or who will?  Supposedly the Red Cross spends only about 4 per cent on admin costs.  Other charities spend much more, especially on professional fund raisers.  Charities keep up to 60 per cent of the money they collect in donations, with only 40 per cent going to help real people.  Some of the CEO’s are living pretty high on the hog.  The highest paid CEO’s receive upwards to $3 million in compensation.

Religious charities are much worse because they don’t need to report what they collect.  Why do you think the Catholic Church is so rich?  It keeps most of the donations from you and me, thinking we’re making a difference for people who need help, and instead they spend it on real estate, automobiles for bishops, advertising and PR, and, oh yeah, I forgot, legal fees for wayward pedophiles.  The amount spent on condoms and bondage equipment is unknown.

Believe it or not, those sickening and self-abasing televangelist programs, such as the 700 Club and In Touch Ministries, are also considered charities:  all of the money they get is poured back into the programs or to produce CD’s and DVD’s (mostly of the same programs that were used to get the money in the first place).  Charles Stanley, an effeminate Christian snake oil salesman-preacher out of Atlanta, Georgia, rakes in $79 million a year through his ministry; Focus on the Family, an ultra-radical arm of the off-the-edge Religious Right, rakes in about $94 million a year, and lists as its activities, “publishing.”  Yeah, it publishes all right, pure hate:  hatred of gays, hatred of freethinkers, hatred of other Christians not fully committed to a Dominionist point of view (a radical takeover of our government, culture and society).  People get to deduct donations to these scumbags, can you believe it?

There have been cures for cancer for over 60 years now.  There are now cures for all sorts of cancers, including breast cancer, awaiting patents that are being sat on by the major pharmaceutical companies, and for good reason.  My oncologist recently told me about a single hypodermic needle of cancer medicine that cost $160,000!  My own chemo, Velcade, costs about $17,000 per shot.  My co-pay is minuscule in comparison, but if I don’t pay, somebody else, other than the drug companies that is, is paying–my employer, my insurance company.  Any way you slice it, the drug company gets full retail price for less than an ounce of liquid.

Researchers in Canada have found a simple drug used for metabolic disorders that also kills cancer cells, all sorts of cancer cells, and leaves the healthy cells alone.  But they can’t get any of the drug companies interested in it because it’s a treatment using a drug already patented, so the companies can’t make much money off of it.  This is a crime against humanity.  People are suffering and dying and tied to the end of an infusion tube just so the drug companies can keep them sick and keep them paying.

Have you ever given someone standing on a street corner with a sign money, and then watched as he/she drove off in a new Lincoln a few minutes later?  That should teach you a lesson about all giving.  Give what you want, or as much as you want, but realize that your money is more than likely going up someone’s nose or into their bank account, and no real people will ever be helped besides the primary huckster.  If you generally spend time flushing greenbacks down the toilets, then this is for you.

Breast cancer, even though cures have been available for years, is now more of an advertising phenomenon than a disease for which real women need a cure or treatment.  There are literally hundreds of companies invested in it, and they all profit by selling more product as a result of being associated with, say, a 5K run, and none of them, sadly, could be less concerned with actually curing breast cancer.  The money given to breast cancer organizations is completely wasted, as it’s split between the admin costs of the organization and research money, which goes to the drug companies who don’t want to find a cure in the first place.  Readers, these companies are SITTING ON THEIR HANDS instead of doing their jobs and helping to find and publish cure protocols.

Remember the AIDS epidemic?  People are still dying of what they call AIDS, but in actuality, AIDS was and is nothing more than a variety of things that make people sick; in the U.S., a contributing factor was a drug popular in gay night clubs and discos called “poppers,” which allegedly damaged the immune system.  In Africa, it’s bad water, bad food and no good sanitation or medical care.  AIDS is simply cancer in many different forms.  Is there an AIDS epidemic today?  If not, why not?  It’s because it’s been largely cured, and the medical community and the drug companies refuse to extend the treatment to the general population, EVEN THOUGH the factors in AIDS are cancers found in almost every sector of society.

So why give them money at all?  If you give money for cancer research, say, that money goes to the same pharmaceutical companies that refuse to yield their monopoly on treatments; if one of their researchers ever really finds something useful, that information will be quashed and that researcher will be fired or moved.  If you give money to a bum, he will spend it on drugs or his new Caddy.  If you give money to a church to help children in Africa, your money will be spent on a new building for that church, or to hire a new priest or pastor, who, more than likely, will wind up in jail for molesting one of your kids.

It’s a hard lesson.  And sad, very sad.  If we can’t help others, humans and non-human animals, then we’re just cheating life.

November 17, 2014

The Atheist Church??

I thought I was mistaken when I first started reading about atheist churches.  The questions “why?” and “what the hell are they thinking?” came immediately to mind.

You don’t set up the same kind of institution as that which you oppose.  Nothing could be more harmful to the freethinker cause.  Imitating the enemy!  Are you serious??

It was the same sort of sick, betrayed feeling I got when a learned about Sam Harris’ foray into the world of spirituality.  One of the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse, a young stalwart of the New Atheism and a very, very smart fellow, talking spirituality.  Spirit.  Where is this spirit?  Where is this God?  You get my point?  He’s setting up his own private idols to worship; the worshipful ineffable.

Atheist churches have been popping up here and there.  Yes, it’s mainly on Sundays; yes, there is singing involved.  Other than that, there’s not much of a comparison with Christian churches.  So what’s the point?  If freethinkers want to get together and socialize, that’s great, they should.  But why call it “church”?

It really makes freethinkers look bad because of the imitation factor involved.  A bad idea made worse by not going away fast enough to annoy us hard-liners.

Let’s look at just a few issues, first, money:  everyone should know how the Catholic Church got all its money.  It stole it; it plundered; it conducted crusades and inquisitions, it confiscated properties, it governed and taxed whole nations.  It was, and it still is, powerful.  Other churches, for example, Protestant churches, got most of their money from donations, collections and then from there by making wise real estate decisions, selling and buying property and businesses and so on.

Are atheists really that committed to going to church that they are willing to go through all of that?  Not, I mean, the plundering part, but everything else?  After all, there are thousands of atheist organizations (and web sites) in America alone, all of them asking for donations to support what they do.  I myself belong to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Austin Community of Atheists, as well as to several national organizations like Americans for the Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, etc.  All it takes for full membership status and newsletter mailings is a small yearly donation.

Secondly, if atheists want to get together and “preach to the choir,” all they have to do is meet in a bar or restaurant, or hire a speaker in a meeting hall.  We need to get our messages out, and we do this by appearing in public one way or the other.

I am against pamphleting, billboards, signs on city buses and taxis.  No one pays attention to them; they are a waste of money.  The one true way to engage a Christian or Jew or Muslim in meaningful debate is face-to-face contact, whether one on one or in front of an audience, lecturing, debating, arguing before a school board on a textbook issue.  This is the only way people will realize what atheists are (rational, sane, friendly, understanding, patient) and which serves to dispel a lot of the misconceptions many people have about atheists.

No one is going to change a gay into a straight person (for biological reasons).  And no one is going to change a Christian into an unbeliever (for socio-cultural reasons).  That change has to be within each person.  And the only way that change is going to happen is if that person is willing to listen to competing arguments and think about them, and go on from there.  Christians, from the writing of Genesis and going forward, have always been taught that knowledge and wisdom are part and parcel of the evil one; once they begin to think for themselves, there is hope for them.

Atheists and freethinkers, let’s drop this embarrassment called the atheist church.  If you want to go to church go to a Universalist Church.  They’ll even let you boo at the mention of God!

November 16, 2014

Why freethinkers will be the last minority

From the looks of it, a lot of churches, even evangelical churches, are starting to crack on the LGBT issues, some moderating their former positions, others, like Vatican City Catholics, at least discussing it.  People are coming around to the view that a person would be crazy to actually choose a gay existence; it’s not a choice, it’s a given, so it’s nothing less than cruelty to persecute them for it.

Once all 50 states have ratified gender equity, and so far there are over 30, preachers, pastors and priests all over will be looking for new fish to fry, and those fish could well be freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, unbelievers and infidels.  One reason is that the preachers who denounce gays from the pulpit may be subject to hate crimes laws once gender equity is in place.  My belief is that this should ALREADY be happening, and this includes TV preachers, radio preachers, and Sunday school preachers and teachers, as well as newsletters and other printed matter sent out by churches.  Preachers have to have something to be negative about, so congregations will know they will go to hell if they go down the wrong path.

The bedrock of all religion is superstition and fear, mostly fear of death.  Parishioners need to have their fear re-charged so they continue to subject themselves to the church, allowing others to think for them.  If preachers can no longer tell their flocks that gays are going to hell, they will certainly begin to pick on unbelievers.

The second reason has to do with the growth of free thought in America.  As mentioned in other posts, Europe is already considered to be in a post-Christian era, with church attendance plummeting and free thought emerging as a radically cool alternative to Christianity and other vaults of superstition.  Here, freethinkers/theist debates are popping up all over the country, the subject of Creationism/Intelligent Design comes up regularly at school board meetings around the country, and finally, the more science discovers, the less the universe remains a mystery, including even the very beginning of our universe, and how it might end.  And God isn’t in there anywhere.

There will be a backlash, and I predict it will begin with legislators, Republican legislators.  The Religious Right, taking advantage of big Republican wins on the state and national levels, will call in its chips after providing an 80 per cent voting base (80 per cent of Americans are supposedly Christians); pretty soon we’ll start seeing laws specifically aimed at freethinkers, or in retaliation for freethinker-influenced legislation or outcomes in the past, i.e. taking religious statements down from court room walls, forbidding team prayers at college football games, taking creches out of capitol buildings, or changing them to neutral holiday displays.

Preachers have to have something to hate (don’t hate the sinner, hate the sin), and once the gays are taken out of the picture, the abortionists and the freethinkers will get lumped into one dumpster.  Now, a freethinker is just that:  there is no political ethic or social stance connected with a lack of belief in a god or gods.  Atheists are not automatically radicals or liberals, they are not automatically socialist versus trickle down capitalist in their economics, they are not automatically anti-gun, pro-choice or anti-capital punishment.  It’s true, many if not most tend to lean to the liberal/socialist/radical (I am none of those:  I’m a barking dog anarchist) side of the spectrum, but lack of belief carries with it no necessary baggage.

The abortion debate will soon be resolved in the Supreme Court, once the Republican president places enough members of the religious right on the dais.  There are three if not four on the Court at this moment; just two to go.  Once this Jesus Court is in place, the abortion case of Roe v. Wade will be reversed.  Which is too bad–the Religious Right, hand in hand with Congress and the courts, is already picking away at contraceptive access, leaving some women with abortion as a last resort form of birth control.  Unfortunately, once contraceptives and abortion are no longer available, suicides will increase, as will illegal abortions (including botched abortions) and people who might have been helped will die.

Blacks were enslaved and given second-class citizen status until they were able to come with some leaders to take up their case against the slave traffickers:  Lincoln, John Brown, X, King Jr., and so on.  Until these people were able to articulate the black cause and augment that with legal work and volunteers, blacks remained an oppressed minority.  Gays and freethinkers already have articulate spokespeople in their corner, thousands in fact, and the ACLU is always there to assist, as they were in the Dover, PA case where the school board added a creationist agenda to the school schedule, and lost pretty badly.  See my blog on Idiot America.  So the Religious Right will probably take the high road and try to force their agenda through legislatively, effectively cutting off freethinkers, pro-choice people and others from any sort of social or legal appeals.  It’s the same position anti-abortion forces have been in for almost 40 years.

It’s important to remember that the Religious Right has big plans for this country, including a takeover of our government and virtually every social and cultural element in our society.  Sit still long enough and watch it happen.

Personally, I would sooner emigrate than kneel before the altar of superstition.

November 15, 2014

The amazing Mr. Robert Ingersoll!

Robert Ingersoll, 1833-1899, the great American freethinker of the 19th century

“I would rather belong to one that commenced at the skulls vertebrae and started for perfection, than to belong to one that started from perfection and started for the skulless vertebrae.”

“We know that doing away with gods and supernatural persons and powers is not an end.  It is a means to an end; the real end being the happiness of man.”

“Reason, Observation and Experience–the Holy Trinity of Science–have taught us that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.  This is enough for us.  In this belief we are content to live and die.”

“Abject faith is barbarism; reason is civilization.  To obey is slavish; to act from a sense of obligation perceived by the reason, is noble.  Ignorance worships mystery; Reason explains it:  the one grovels, the other soars.”

“Religion got much of its power from the terror of death.  Superstition is the child of ignorance and fear.”

“Religion does not, and cannot, contemplate man as free.  She accepts only the homage of the prostrate, and scorns the offerings of those who stand erect.  She cannot tolerate the liberty of thought.”

“…every religion has for its foundation a miracle:  that is to say, a violation of nature–that is to say, a falsehood.”

“For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other.  This is the war between science and faith…The few have said “Think!”  The many have said “Believe!”

“According to the ancient Christians, God lived from all eternity, and never worked but six days in His whole life, and then had the impudence to tell us to be industrious.”

“The highest type of the Orthodox Christian does not forget; neither does he learn.  He neither advances nor recedes.  He is a living fossil embedded in that rock called faith.  He makes no effort to better his condition, because all his strength is exhausted in keeping other people from improving theirs.”

“From every pulpit comes the same cry, born of the same fear:  “Lest they eat and become as gods, knowing good and evil.”  For this reason, religion hates science, faith detests reason, theology is the sworn enemy of philosophy…”

“In the days of Thomas Paine the Church believed and taught that every word in the Bible was absolutely true.  Since his day it has been proven false in its cosmogony, false in its astronomy, false in its chronology, false in its history, and so far as the Old Testament is concerned, false in almost everything.”

“Infidelity is liberty; all religion is slavery.  In every creed man is the slave of God–woman is the slave of man and the sweet children are the slaves of all.  We do not want creeds; we want knowledge–we want happiness.”

“If the account given in Genesis is really true, ought we not, after all, to thank this serpent? He was the first schoolmaster, the first advocate of learning, the first enemy of ignorance, the first to whisper in human ears the sacred word liberty, the creator of ambition, the author of modesty, of inquiry, of doubt, of investigation, of progress and of civilization.”

All quotes excerpted from Ingersollia Gems of Thought from the Lectures, Speeches and Conversations of Col. Robert G. Ingersoll

 

 

 

November 14, 2014

Why the Democrats are in BIG trouble in 2016…

What, me worry?  I, a life-long Republican turned Democrat/Green Party advocate because the Republicans have been taken over by the Religious Right (that’s Right, I mean, right, I used to vote Republican, straight tickets too.  A true American Idiot, right?)

The elections of 2014 are over and the Red Party is in full control of both Houses, but the Dems still have Obama to fend them off, if he can.  All he really has to fight with is the Executive Order and the veto.

But the Dems have bigger problems than this one election last Tuesday.  The presidential election of 2016 is just two years away, and the Dems are in big trouble.  Why?  They simply have no platform except to criticize the Republicans for being an immovable force.  And worse, THEY HAVE NO CORE CONSTITUENCY.

So, what do the Republicans have going for them that the Democrats don’t?  A recent poll shows that upwards of 75 per cent of Americans identify themselves as “Christians.”  The Republicans are the party of the Christian Right, if not radical Christian Right, and thus have a built-in bedrock constituency for which the Democrats have no attractive alternatives for possible “swing” Christian voters.  Now, a “swing” Christian voter is even hated by other Christians, because they are clearly not totally with the program.  The peer pressure for them to vote Republican is thrown at them every day.

The Democrats, formerly the Dixiecrats, the main purveyors of slavery and the controllers of all Southern states before the Civil War, already have an uphill battle overcoming their past.  Besides slavery, consider our wars.  Wilson was a Democrat, Roosevelt was a Democrat, Truman was a Democrat, Kennedy was a Democrat.  The rest of our wars last century and this were largely undeclared wars “against the evil-doers,” noble humanitarian efforts to fight off the terrorists and the weapons of mass destruction, wars to avenge our winged pride after 9/11 and to free the oppressed peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, all of whom are just itching to get them a taste of Christ’s body and blood!  Yeah, right.  And what did Clinton have instead of a war?  A continuing embargo against Iraq all through his term that cost the lives of over 500,000 Iraqi children, who died from a lack of clean water, starvation and the lack of medicines.  Add in the adults and you have going on a million people.

We have military bases in virtually every country in the world.  We send out missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers, most of whom work for the CIA to spy out those who would choose to not be oppressed by some U.S.-appointed puppet dictator.  Even heads of state elected democratically (Panama, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba) are undermined and at times assassinated by our own CIA and foreign agents on their payroll.

So we have our fingers everywhere, and everywhere means there are Christians everywhere fighting hard for new converts.  The fringe and radical right of the Christian religion are people with a purpose and the Democrats have absolutely nothing to compare.

Even when the Democrats do something right, such as Obamacare, the public relations machinery of the Religious Right cranks up and vomits all over it.  All most Christians need is to hear from the head of the family, their pastor, or some Christian leader like David Barton or ex-convict Ralph Reed.  Christians are taught not to think for themselves, so they are easily led and believe what they are told.  They have their ears glued to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh all morning, and the rest of the day watch Fox News, the media arm of the Religious Right.  They do this to get confirmation of their values and beliefs, and all of these are passed down to their children, who eventually become voters themselves.

There are no more war heroes.  All of the generals and chiefs of staff are basically nothing more than shit-shovellers; they are not expected to win wars, just keep them going.  And the military is on a daily basis subjected to Christian messages and proselytizing, a clear violation of the First Amendment, but it’s the case nevertheless.

The only possible way the Democrats can win in 2016 is to win the beauty contest, which can overcome even deeply-held convictions towards one party or the other.  Obama beat McCain because he was young and good-looking and reminded people of Jack Kennedy, and he beat Romney because Romney’s a Mormon, which counted more than looks in the beauty contest:  Mormons are basically a Christian cult with a history of polygamy and pedophilia.  The beauty contest is why Gore nearly beat Bush, even though the Republicans should have won handily following Clinton’s second term.  I’m not saying Bush is ugly, he just looks like Alfred E. Newman or Howdy Doody and he’s just plain stupid, an automaton who learned everything he had to say phonetically.  He mouths words when he reads.

Democrats, think twice, you think Hillary can win the beauty contest?  The Democrats, home of the little guy, except that the little guy is the one who gets stuck in the shit in some Third World hell-hole war, or she’s the slave that was doing your great-great grandma’s laundry.  Dems won in 2008 because they were able to get the vote out and were excited about their candidate, as they should have been, and the Republicans just weren’t too thrilled about an old boring one-armed hack war veteran and his beauty-queen-governor running mate, whose main claim to fame in foreign policy was that you can see parts of Russia from Alaska.  Listen, if this babe had had Stephen Hawking’s or Lord Burke’s brain, I would have voted for her in the beauty contest in a New York minute.

Next time:  unravelling the strings that hold GW’s brain together.

November 13, 2014

Stephen Hawking:  One Bad Dude

Stephen Hawking (b. 1942) is an English scientist.  If you haven’t heard of him, you’ve probably seen pictures or videos of him in a wheel chair or communicating using his eyes and a special computer monitor.  He has a form of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), which afflicted him during his college years and has progressively worsened.

In the meantime, he’s managed to write a whole bunch of books popularizing the kind of science he does.  His two most popular books are A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design; he’s even penned several children’s books co-authored by Lucy, his daughter.  Naturally, he also has a whole slew of academic articles to his credit.  After all, he’s still a full professor at Cambridge U. in Jolly Old England.

His main focus is cosmology, figuring out how the universe works, how it begins, how it will end.  In fact, one of his main theories involves a “multiverse,” positing the existence of billions of galaxies and more than one universe.

A freethinker has to keep up on his science, and that’s how I know Stephen Hawking.  His books make the explanations of String Theory and M-theory, black holes and the Big Bang just a little bit easier to understand.  This is complicated, mind-blowing stuff (try this one on for size:  the laws of nature are most likely different in different universes–gravity, Newton’s laws, Einstein’s theories–none of those might apply), and it takes a few minutes after reading something for it to sink in to the point where you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

A brilliant man under tragic, life-changing circumstances, making the most of what he has to offer the world.

Here are some mind-ravashing nuggets from The Grand Design:

String theory is described as a physics theory in which particles are talked about in terms of vibrating strings which have length but no width or height.  “They are consistent only if space-time has ten dimensions, instead of the usual four.  Ten dimensions might sound exciting, but they would cause real problems if you forgot where you parked your car.”  Most of the dimensions are “wrapped around” the strings in a kind of coil.  And Hawking always manages to slip a joke in here and there.

“The laws of M-theory…allow for different universes with different apparent laws, depending on how the internal space is curled.”

“…if we extrapolate to the distant past, all the matter and energy in the universe would have been concentrated in a very tiny region of unimaginable density and temperature…”

Hawking teaches the discoveries based on the work of Hubble (you know, as in telescope) that show that the universe is now expanding and that the farther away another galaxy is from us, the faster it’s moving.  Another scientist, this one working at Cambridge before Hawking’s time, Fred Hoyle, invented the term “Big Bang.”  The theory basically states that at one time the universe was so small (see above) you couldn’t even see it with the naked eye (does that make any sense?) and then exploded (the Big Bang), expanded, and eventually filled the universe with stars and planets.  “It was as if a coin one centimeter in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way…”  He explains that the speed of light, supposedly the fastest possible speed, does not apply to the expansion of space.  “…the universe was as small as the Planck size, a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimeter…”

Are you serious??  Now you get the picture.  Read up, people!

Here’s a couple more:

“The realization that time behaves like space presents a new alternative.  It removes the age-old objection to the universe having a beginning, but also means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn’t need to be set in motion by some god.”

“…the universe appeared spontaneously, starting off in every possible way.  Most of these correspond to other universes.  While some of those universes are similar to ours, most are very different.”

“We create history by our observation, rather than history creating us.”

“…the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.”

Hawking, 72, a disabled scientist who is MORE than able to testify to the wonders of Nature.

 

 

November 12, 2014

Why have we made heroes out of vehicle mechanics and cooks?

Another Veterans Day yesterday and another reminder.  “America’s Heroes.”  Huh?  I was in the service.  All I ever did was get drunk and chase women.  Well, not really, but I was in the service, and I occasionally got drunk and I occasionally chased women.

All of us back then (sometime after Saigon collapsed in a heap of incompetence and broken helicopters) would have been stunned if we had received the same treatment today’s soldiers, sailors and marines are getting.  Yeah, go ahead, old man, stand up in the airport and salute a passing reservist for the cameras.  Go call your nurse, you’re drooling, you putz!  Sit the hell down!

I got lucky.  I got recruited out of basic training by the White House Communications Agency and worked two of my three years in civilian clothes, with long hair and a chip on my shoulder, in the basement of the White House playing with message traffic.  I worked maybe two 12-hour shifts a week and played tennis every day.  A hero?  Get outta town!

What the heck is going on?

At the close of WWII, our nation did what it was supposed to do, it wound down.  There were less than 5000 service men and women active one year after that war.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Then America got the idea that we were the world’s policemen:  Korea, Vietnam, the CIA started to grow and become more active in Central and South America, also in the Middle East, the Cold War with the Soviets dragged on and on until 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.  Somewhere in there we built over 700 bases that weren’t even on American soil!  And the number is still growing; we’re even putting bases in the former Soviet Union territories.

When I was a kid in grade school, we thought that half a billion dollars for defense spending that year was WAY too much.  Now it’s more like a trillion, and about sixty per cent of that is black, so we don’t even know if a trillion does the job.

When Eisenhower warned us in his farewell speech just before JFK’s inauguration about the growing “military-industrial complex,” he knew then that things were already pretty much out of control, otherwise he never would have mentioned it; it was a very strange thing for a president to say.  The CIA and the military by then had joined forces with munitions manufacturers, airplane builders, chemical conglomerates and support services companies, and these companies, with their government contracts, had spread out (by intelligent design) into all 50 states, creating jobs and boosting local economies.  What you gonna do then, cut jobs, kill business?

They already had us by the short hairs, especially Congress.  What representative was going to vote against funding that would take jobs and business out of her district?

Carter had already gotten us knee-deep into Afghanistan shortly after Vietnam, and Reagan’s forte, of course, was killing off Central and South American leaders he didn’t like, with thousands of innocent civilians as “collateral damage.” By the time we Bush-whacked Iraq the first time with an air war that was like a video game (who did Bush think he was fooling by trying to cut down on ground troop casualties?  He killed 5000 innocent Panamanians trying to get that country to oust Noriega and never even got front page for it–Bush the Elder, one of the most despicable, murderous, blood-hungry war criminals in our history, a bag of fart wind whose father got gigged for making deals with the Nazis well into the ’30’s), the military was out of control and all the politicians could do was give them more money.

The hero-worship thing started with a sonic boom on 9/11.  Now, honoring fallen firefighters and cops in New York City is one thing, but turning EVERY man-jack who puts on a uniform into a hero?  All part of the greatest PR scam of the century, the unending “war on terror,” guaranteed to keep those war coffers full and those CEO’s rolling in dough.  All of Bush’s buddies and his dad’s buddies made huge profits on the dead bodies of our 19 year-old grunts.

The Patriot Act.  Patriot.  Hey, NSA, you listening?  What the Patriot Act did was make all of us “patriots” by doing our part and surrendering our privacy to our own government.  The hero-worship of the military is nothing more than a smokescreen for robbing us of our liberties, making the video game warriors super-heroes, when in fact the vast majority are just working stiffs like you and me, getting drunk on weekends and chasing skirt whenever possible.

I say we need to run one of these “Fallen Heroes” commercials and then follow it up with a live shot of a platoon of soldiers in their barracks, doing what they normally do when the cameras aren’t on:  gambling, drinking, smoking dope and whoring.  Oh, yeah, forgot, and complaining.  Where would a soldier be without that solace?

Soldiers coming home from a perfect hell-hole in Vietnam got spit on and cursed.  Iraqi war veterans, some of them cooks and vehicle mechanics, come home to parades and TV cameras.  War doesn’t change.  Perceptions change, or are changed for us, if we’re gullible enough to swallow the Kool-Aid.

November 10, 2014

Idiot America, by Charles P. Pierce, The Greatest Book Ever Written!  Part IV

Here are a few excerpts from “the greatest book ever written.”  This wonderful little book has already solved a few gift problems for me with the holidays coming up, and I strongly recommend that you give it a try.  It will at once enrage and comfort you.  There are still some good people left in America, and Pierce is one of them.

“All right, hold on, Dr. Forrest, your concept of how you can out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?”  —  Larry King

“The rise of Idiot America today reflects–for profit, mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good.”  P. 8, Idiot America

“We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.”  —  Pastor Ray Mummert of Dover, Pennsylvania, where the local school board was sued over the insertion of creationist materials in local schools.  Gee, I hope that doesn’t happen in MY community!  It would be turrible if we got hit oliver sudden by some of them thar intelligentsia types in Round Rock, Texas!

“Does God have a place in science class?”  —  Time magazine, cover, August 2005.  Two thousand five.  Two thousand five.

“…three of the Republican contenders for president of the United States (2008 election-Editor), in what was supposed to be one of the crucial elections in the country’s history, said that, no, they didn’t believe in evolution.  And the people in the hall cheered.”  P. 267

 In September, 2009, a couple named the Ruhls out of Fredericktown Ohio wanted to build a float for a parade in town, the annual tomato festival parade.  When they had finished, the float was quite distinctive:  it depicted President Barack Obama wearing a swastika on his arm that was linked to a Nazi flag.  The words “Wake Up America!” adorned a sign aboard the float.  Alas, the parade organizers nixed the float and the Ruhls hopes to take First Prize were dashed on a rocks of political correctness.  One wonders what the Ruhls ever did with it.  Maybe they sent it off to Hebron, Kentucky and the Creation Museum.

Here is what Pierce says:  “The Ruhls didn’t develop this view of the political scene all on their own.  Almost as soon as Obama’s hand left the Bible, there arose a loud and curiously atavistic opposition…What was startling, however, was the fact that a great part of the most hysterical reaction–the Tea Party folks, Beck’s Chutes And Ladders approach to political history, the free-range lunacy of what’s left of the conservative “movement”–turned out to be old-fashioned nut populism, straight out of Father Coughlin.”

November 9, 2014

Idiot America, by Charles P. Pierce, The Greatest Book Ever Written!  Part III

Last time I gave a quick overview of some of topics Pierce took on in Idiot America.  Let’s take a closer look at one or two of them.

Before I start, however, there is another important concept in the book that needs some explaining and that is THE GUT.  THE GUT is the source of the three premises:  any theory is valid if it sells, any theory or idea is valid if you say it loudly enough, and if you say it enough times it becomes a fact, and if you believe it fervently enough it becomes the truth.    THE GUT, as in perhaps “gut issue,” is an appeal to the most basic common denominator (“I just KNOW this is right!”).  The GUT is what politicians and preachers appeal to; it’s why the religious right chose to carry the flag of abortion (it’s a GUT issue, get it?) even though the Religious Right as a movement probably got its start when the government tried to take away the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, a third-rate radical right-wing think tank that poses as a college and which commits a hate crime about once every three seconds.

The GUT as presented by Pierce is multi-faceted in its implications.  You can imagine a fat white guy with a big gut carrying a beer and wearing a loud shirt and sandals; he always goes with the crowd because he’s too damn lazy to read anything; he spends 14 hours a day watching television, 10 hours of it Fox News, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage, and by the eighth hour he’s in a cataleptic stupor due to extreme sugar ingestion.  He lets himself be led by the nose by anything or anyone who sounds like they’re against feminism, socialism, atheism or Obama-ism.  He’s a combination of hillbilly gullibility, dumb honkey prejudice and altar boy superstition.  An addled-headed moron, a true American icon.  And he votes.

And who does The GUT listen to?  The Speaker of the House, who says “an embryo is a person…We were all at one time embryos…So was Abraham…Muhammed…So was Jesus of Nazareth…”  So was Hitler, so was Stalin, so was Pol Pot.  Uh, Jesus?  So Jesus impregnated his own mother as the Holy Spirit, became an embryo, and then became Jesus?  Dang, this immaculate conception stuff is complicating!  He listens to George the Younger, who said that creationism should be taught in public schools alongside evolution (70 per cent of Republicans DO NOT believe in evolution!)  He believes James Dobson, who compares the Supreme Court to the Ku Klux Klan, Pat Robertson, who said that federal judges are a bigger threat to the U.S. than Al Queda and that the toleration of gays and gay rights led to 9/11.  He listens to the Alabama legislator who proposes a ban on all books by gay authors.

He listens to the clearly demented owner of a museum in Kentucky who puts a saddle on a dinosaur and calls it “science.”

In 1990 a woman named Terry Schiavo suffered a cardiac arrest and thereafter was brain-dead. Kept alive on feeding tubes, she was moved to a hospice in 1998, at which time her husband petitioned the courts to have the tube removed.  This simple death-with-dignity case overnight turned into a media headline, as Terry’s parents fought her husband to keep their daughter “alive,” whatever that meant.  The hospice was besieged by national television cameras, Jesse Jackson, and every crackpot known to humankind.  The nurses were called murderers and Nazis.  Constant threats came in by phone and letter to the hospice, the nurses, the judges and especially the husband, Michael.  The hospice was compared to Auschwitz on a daily basis on national television.  The Schindlers, desperate to defeat their son-in-law, made up stories on a daily basis about how “cheerful” their daughter looked, and how it seemed like she would speak at any minute.  They talked about her coming home for Thanksgiving.  The Congress held hearings and actually called Terry as a witness.  Let me repeat that.  Congress called a brain-dead vegetable to Washington to testify on her own behalf.

The Religious Right and talk radio and Fox News all acted like they were the defenders of life to score points with their constituents, feeding off the popular frenzy and fascination with death, the fear of death, the fear of dying, and the refusal to admit what was the logical truth:  this woman had been brain-dead for eight years, she was nothing more than the end of a tube.  They were making their livings off this woman who was about to die.  What do you call people like that?  Monsters?

A man in North Carolina offered to kill the judge for $50K, and to kill Michael Schiavo for $250K; he was arrested by the FBI.  Another man threatened to storm the elementary school in town, and kill one child every ten minutes nourishment was withheld from Terry. They scraped him out of some bar.  He thought he was going to be hailed as a hero.

The head nurse called a priest to administer last rites, unaware that at almost the same time Terry’s parents had called their own priest.  That night the sheriff was called to break up a fight between two priests in the lobby of the hospice, a place of quiet and dignity.

Madness, sheer and utter, barking madness.  A vindication of the three premises as performed by the American GUT.

I will finish this book description tomorrow…

November 8, 2014

IDIOT AMERICA, The Greatest Book Ever Written!  (Part two)

Yesterday I began my exploration of Charles P. Pierce’s Idiot America and didn’t get much farther than the introduction.  This wonderful little book takes on a number of subjects, most of them contemporary, and demonstrates how those events, ideas or industries are evidence that this country is now in the clutches of a bunch of BIG FAT IDIOTS.

But he begins with a story about a true American “crank,” a person that Pierce admires because of his nutty ideas that never pan out, but supported by unflinching self-confidence, hard work and no fear of failure.  He looks at Ignatius Donnelly, who actually served in Congress out of Minnesota before beginning his personal descent into crankism.  He wrote a long book about Atlantis, espoused a crank science theory about the origins of the earth, and ended his writing career championing Francis Bacon as the author of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and probably Marlowe’s as well.  Why Donnelly?  Pierce admires the old American spirit of invention, inquiry and trying just about anything that seemed right at the time.  He admires the American “crank” because she’s not a phony, she’s not into marketing and advertising; she’s interested in ideas.

Donnelly is thus set up as the counterweight to the booty call of idiots Pierce unclothes in the rest of the book.  An idiot is too lazy to inquire for herself, she believes what other people say even though it’s plainly false, she believes it until it becomes a fact.

Pierce has three premises or cardinal rules:  1)  any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units; 2)  anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough, and 3)  Fact is that which enough people believe.  Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Pierce discusses a proposed NAFTA superhighway through the heart of America, talk radio, where conservatives, since the Fairness Doctrine was canned, have virtually taken over the AM airwaves, Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, 9/11, the Terry Schiavo walking vegetable case, a fight over teaching evolution in schools in Pennsylvania, global warming, and the lies we were told to get ourselves at war with Iraq.

In every instance some really stupid things are said and done, not out of ignorance or fear (well, not usually), but because of the three principles:  people do not want to know the truth, they aren’t even interested, all they want is to do what they’re told and then believe it.  How sad is that?  That’s how you get a senior arguing with a Congressman about entitlements and using Glenn Beck as their source of facts.  That’s how you get into Iraq, when no one in the administration is allowed to ask the question, Why are we doing this? and if they do it’s out the door and don’t be sore.

I should add before I get too far along here that in every chapter, Pierce starts out with a few pages on James Madison, what he said, what he did, what his house looks like.  Madison is one of his heroes (he should be the hero of every American, except, maybe, David Barton* and gang).  Madison wanted every citizen to become educated and achieve all her goals in life.  If the Fathers hadn’t had high hopes for this land after they stole it from the Indians, what would have been the point?  And I think Pierce’s point is that Madison and the others would have been very disappointed to look at America now, from the “dangling chads” election to talk radio to ignoring global warming.

(*David Barton has made it his personal crusade to trash all of the founding fathers because, for one thing, they were Deists, those who believe God once existed, perhaps to jump-start the universe, but no longer is active or alive and has nothing to do with our daily lives; for another, and perhaps mainly, they all believed strongly in the separation of church and state.  Barton will state that there is no such thing and, as stated in the 3 principles, if he says it loudly enough and long enough, people will start to believe it.  It’s how you wind up with dinosaurs wearing saddles.  Giddyup!)

(To be continued tomorrow…)

November 7, 2014

IDIOT AMERICA, the greatest book ever written!

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles P. Pierce (1953-), was published in 2009 and became a national bestseller.

Pierce’s first job was as a forest ranger in Massachusetts.  A short time later he began writing for magazines and newspapers.  He is currently a political blogger for Esquire Magazine, a sports writer for various outlets including ESPN and the Boston Globe:  truly a man for all reasons, and one who turned out one of the funniest, and saddest, books I’ve ever had the pleasure to buy from Amazon for a penny plus shipping.

Rest assured, the humor in this book is at times overwhelming, so funny it almost makes you cry or scream out in anger.  Let’s just say that a book that has as its main theme a dinosaur wearing a saddle has to have a big sense of humor.

The dinosaur in question appears at the Creation Museum in Hebron, Kentucky.  It’s a museum dedicated to telling the story of Genesis–you know, the first book of the Christian Bible–with figures built like they’re right out of the Smithsonian.  Except that this museum, its director and its patrons, extol Genesis as literally true.  And since the earth and mankind are only about 6000 years old, according to Genesis scholars, dinosaurs and people must have lived on the earth at the same time, and by golly (and this goes over really well in my state of Texas) we gonna rope summa them thar Deenos and hook ‘em up with livery.  Mr. Ham (not kidding), the director, stated to Pierce, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!”  Pierce says deadpan of the visitors:  “This was a serious crowd.”

The museum takes patrons on a walkway through the entire creation story.  Adam and Eve are naked but somehow Adam has no penis and Eve has hair down to her legs and covers all the naughty bits, as John Cleese might have said.  The entire affair, Pierce implies, is a product of the Religious Right’s creationist tendencies.  Charlie Darwin, it seems, is not one of the favorite authors of this part of the country.

Pierce’s point, and so far we haven’t gotten out of the Introduction to the book, is deeper than just having a laugh at some incredibly troubled people.  He states that after the tour, no one asked any questions.  Have you ever seen zero questions after a museum tour with kids?  Everyone already knew the story.  There was nothing new to learn; the people were just there to bask in the glory of like-minded conservative Christian ideology.  These people need to support one another, because at least some of them, deep down, have to know it’s all hooey, but they’ve been indoctrinated by speakers, by their church, by their radios and televisions, their friends and neighbors and relatives, to think that evolution is “just a theory,” that also happens to present a godless universe, and by golly, they’re not having any of it, and their kids aren’t having any of it either.

If I were on a road trip and happened on the Creation Museum by chance, I would count it as one of the most memorable moments of my life.  I would stare, I would gasp, I wouldn’t be able to move or speak, I would explore every little detail, examine every nook and cranny, pose endless questions to anyone who would answer them.  I would cherish my time there because you don’t come upon the literal definition of stark, raving lunacy all that often.  When I got back in my car, I would laugh until it hurt.  And then I would mourn.  MY America, and this was the heart of intellectual darkness, the heart of idiot America.  (continues tomorrow, see you then…)

 

November 6, 2014

The 9/11 Conspiracy that Wasn’t 

There is a group called “9/11 Truth-ers” who believe there may have been more to the attacks on the World Trade Center than just crazed, spittle-flinging Muslims hot for the 72 virgins they were told they’d get to bed down with in heaven after being martyred.

Various forensic tests on the beams and other parts of the WTC rubble have shown no visible signs of internal detonation.  Building 7 is troubling, though.  It wasn’t struck by a plane and yet it collapsed flat as a pancake, just like the twin towers; witnesses tell of hearing explosions within the building and strange behavior on the part of building officials and the police.

It’s a bit different from the JFK conspiracy theories.  There, the CIA had a history of killing heads of state for political or economic gain for the U.S.–several in South and Central America, the president of Vietnam, attempts on Castro’s life, and the former prime minister of Iran, Mosaddeq, in the early ’50’s.  JFK was rumored to be about to dismantle or abolish the CIA, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the CIA was responsible for his death, especially in light of the botched autopsy, the missing autopsy photographs, JFK’s missing brain, and other evidence that disappeared between Dallas and Arlington Cemetery.  And, oh yeah, the head of the Warren assassination commission was none other than Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA.

So if the CIA killed or had someone kill Kennedy, the president of the United States, do you blame anyone for thinking that perhaps they were willing to sacrifice 3000 American lives so Bush could have his war with Iraq and finish what Daddy neglected to do ten years earlier?  After all, we’re dealing, generally, with mindless, brutal, conscienceless barbarians here, who specialize in death, torture, assassination and grand theft.  Iraq was and is a virtual goldmine for munitions manufacturers, support companies and builders like Halliburton (yes, Dick Cheney’s Halliburton), oil companies and chemical producers.

And why did construction crews haul off all of the steel and ship it to Japan and China after the WTC attacks?  Wasn’t that still a crime scene?  Of course the perpetrators died in the crashes, but we needed to connect some dots, right?  It looked to everyone like getting rid of the evidence.

It is suggested that a lot of valuable time and expertise is wasted on such exercises as conspiracy theories such as that held closely by 9/11 Truth-ers.  If we could put that talent to work doing something positive, like prosecuting the known war criminals in our midst, starting of course with Henry A. Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, George the Elder, Bill Clinton, George the Younger, Cheney and Rumsfeld, and the president, perhaps we could start putting some of this behind us and move on.

America spends too much time on the present and forgets its own past.  It forgets that arming the mujahideen was the Carter administration’s idea, to lure the Soviets into a costly war in Afghanistan.  It forgets that a wealthy Saudi named Bin Laden joined in on the fun, and came out of the war a leader of terrorists hell-bent on the destruction of the U.S.  It forgets that Reagan and Bush the Elder funded and armed these people all through the 1980’s, and that afterwards, during the Clinton administration, more than a million Muslims in Iraq died from lack of food, good water and medicine because of the embargo begun by Bush the Elder and continued by Clinton.  It forgets that the only good reason America had for again invading Iraq in 2003 was that Bush the Younger was doing daddy a favor and finishing unfinished work from a decade before.  Uranium from Niger??  Please.  He lied his way into Iraq and the American people, still shell-shocked from the WTC attack, and swooned into a massive stupor by American Idol re-runs, swallowed their stupid pills and let it happen.

Who was most and originally responsible for the attacks on 9/11 if they are considered blowback by the Muslim world for evil deeds done by us?  Jimmy Carter.  Let’s give the man another Nobel Peace Prize!

November 5, 2014

Guy Fawkes Day, November 5

One of the ironies of Guy Fawkes Day is that Guy Fawkes was voted, in 2002, as the 30th greatest Briton; Guy Fawkes Day, or Night,  or Treason Day, or Bonfire Night, as it is often called (King James allowed bonfires to be lit in honor of his survival at the time of the failed plot), is celebrated in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and sometimes in America) because the 1605 Catholic plot to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I failed.

Fawkes and his co-conspirators were tried in 1608 and then drawn and quartered. Guido Fawkes, as he also liked to be called, was a Catholic; at the time of the plot, Catholics were repressed by the Church of England, and the plot was one part of Catholic blowback, although Catholic persecution increased dramatically after the plot failed.  They got one back, though, when, in 1625, the future Charles I, King James’ boy, married a Catholic lady from France.  That year, on Guy Fawkes Treason Day, effigies of King James and Satan were burned all over London.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November…

It is speculated that perhaps the reason for Fawkes’ continuing popularity, besides the contrariness of English youth, is that he was trying to strike a blow for religious freedom, which England did not allow in 1605.  People today, even a nation as backward as England, are generally in favor of religious freedom.  Unfortunately, many too many here in America take advantage of the establishment clause to try to gain something they did not earn, as in the recent Hobby Lobby case, where the Green family claimed it violated their religious freedom to be forced to pay for insurance that covered employees’ contraceptive benefits.

Justice Scalia, whom I picture wearing a very large dunce cap at all times, as if born in it, stated that the belief that “life begins at conception,” which the Greens claimed to hold, was a “sincere religious belief” that exempted them from providing contraceptives as payor of health insurance.  The only question is, in which bible are the words “life begins at conception”?  In no bible, of course; it’s nothing more than a quasi-scientific (and bad science, at that) opinion that has as much to do with religion as a broken jackhammer.  It’s a sectarian opinion, leaving open the possibility that every little objection to obeying our laws could be backed up by some “religious belief” invented for just that purpose.

November 5th is still pretty much the biggest state holiday in England.  Probably because of the bonfires and fireworks, much like our Fourth of July.  That it was originally born out of religious persecution has somehow been lost in the short history between then and now.  And it seemed like a good idea at the time!

My next blog will examine the eschatological significance of the fool’s skull in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as interpreted by Harry Flashman.

November 4, 2014

The Religious Right and Public Education

A few days ago I ran a series of blogs entitled, “Life of a Drudge,” wherein I attempted to show how modern education in America was steered towards babysitting the worker bees of the country instead of developing great minds, largely through prompting from early American industrialists and entrepreneurs who wanted to reduce future competition.  The aim was purely secular, having little or nothing to do with religion.

As we sit today, with more and more children going to parochial schools, private or charter schools, or being home-schooled, and with a wave of “voucher” laws being passed to pay private schools for teaching your kids, public education as we know it is under attack, serious attack, from the Religious Right.  “Whether through homeschooling or Christian schools, the goal is to ‘replace’ public education, which…is considered unbiblical.  According to Reconstructionism, the bible gives authority for education to families–not the state…”  Julie Ingersoll, Replacing Godless Hollywood with Bible-based Cultural Dominion.

“If we could get up to 30 per cent of public school students into home-schooling and private schools, the system would start to unravel and at some point implode and collapse.”  —  Exodus Mandate

Public schools are funded based on the number of students enrolled.  It is how teachers and administrators are paid and how facilities are built.  Some schools in Austin, Texas, where this writer lives, sit vacant for this very reason:  not enough students to justify opening the doors.  If the Religious Right continues to pick off children to the point where public education is no longer a viable government option, our schools could die.

“I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools.  The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.  What a happy day that will be!”  Jerry Falwell

“Children are the prize to the winners in the second great civil war.  Those who control what young people are taught and what they experience–what they see, hear, think and believe–will determine the future course for the nation.”  James Dobson

You’re probably sitting there going, “What the hey!?”  It’s true, though.  There is a very, very strong movement in this country, anchored by the Religious Right, to move our country away from democracy and civil law and towards a theocracy and Old Testament law.  They have a carefully developed plan to take over every aspect of our society, and that includes the education of children.

If you haven’t really noticed anything…well, you have.  George the Younger, remember him?  He described himself as a born-again evangelical Christian.  He allowed his presidency to become a political pawn for the Religious Right.  Remember “faith-based initiatives”?  He brought them into the White House and our government; clear First Amendment violation, still being fought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  He encouraged bible study groups and prayer groups at the White House; clear violation of the First Amendment.  His approach to various issues such as stem cell research, abortion rights, gender equity and even the so-called “War Against Terror” (“This is good against evil”) were all influenced by the Religious Right.  He virtually divorced the White House from mainstream science and scientists.  He became one of the ringleaders of Idiot America merely by allowing himself to be manipulated and told what to do, not by experts and people with expertise, but by religious hucksters fueled by the lust for power to change our lives into their lives.

The National Education Association (NEA) and other teachers’ unions are also under assault.  If you can break up the unions, you can attack the individuals (this is true for all unions and all workers–join your union or start one!).  The nut jobs have teachers doing everything from handing out condoms to fourth-graders on their way into school to having kids throw darts at pictures of Jesus to teaching them socialism.  As in all other things, the Relgious Right will lie because they believe they are achieving a greater good, so it’s all right (Islam has the same principle).  Their fundraising letters are hysterical, alarmist, spastic, laced with lies and total fabrications, and mixed with an abject and sickening beggary for money, traced in grotesque pirouettes of sniveling self-abasement.

“There is a great war being waged in America…This is a battle for the heart, mind, and even the very soul of every man, woman, and especially every child…it is America’s Last Great War…The combatants are secular humanism and Christianity…The Christian is the key to God’s victory over Satan and the atheism of secular humanism…Our schools are the battleground.”  Fritz Detwiller, The Christian Right’s Fight to Re-define Public Schools

In 2001, the Supreme Court allowed churches to use school premises on Sundays for worship services, etc.  Usually for free.  Another clear violation of the establishment clause, this time by the SCOTUS.  The Supreme Court, of course, has the final word, absent subsequent legislative action (pretty unlikely in this case as our Congress is slowly becoming peopled with evangelicals, Tea Party winners, and “stealth Fundamentalists.”  That’s someone who runs for office and acts like a ‘normal’ politician, and yet once in office exhibits Dominionist tendencies:  placing religion before service, participating in plans for an eventual theocracy, and most importantly, voting according to the wishes of the Religious Right.)

Let’s see now.  Churches already have tax-exempt status, school vouchers are being used to pay for religious schools, the Religious Right is hell-bent on destroying public education, and now, ironically, we’re allowing them to use our public schools for free?  How hypocritical to attack public schools and at the same time make use of their facilities!

Next time you take a drive on a Sunday morning, see if there are lots of cars parked by a school in your neighborhood; no, it’s not a wresting tournament, not on Sundays:  chances are church services are being held.

How do we fight back?  Always vote Democrat, virtually none of them belong to the Religious Right, although there are a few.  Make sure your kids are not being subjected to religious messages during the school day.  Check the tax status of church organizations that might be using the schools; if it’s not a church but a “faith-based” organization, it cannot vomit its superstitious tripe all over the school without violating the law.  And lastly, go to your school board meetings and check out what’s going on.  And vote Democrat.

November 3, 2014

James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, Virginia Legislature, 1785

A bill was proposed in the Virginia legislature “establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” which would have given state funds to the Episcopal Church.  Madison led the fight against the bill, and in doing so, “memorialized” some of the greatest arguments in favor of the establishment clause ever written.

Here are a few excerpts:

“The preservation of a free Government requires not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people.  The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants.”

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?”

“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”

“As the bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions.”

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial.  What have been its fruits?  More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

“If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment to necessary to Civil Government?  What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society?  In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.  Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries.”

“If with the salutary effects of this System under our own eyes we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly.”

The Treaty of Tripoli, President John Adams, 1798:

Reading, in part:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Muslims; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohammedan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Now, boys and girls, the next time someone tells you our founding fathers intended America to be a Christian nation, feed them this and tell them where to stick jt.

November 2, 2014

Faith-Based Initiatives?  What are those, anyway?

During the term of George the Younger, it was decided to find a way to give government funds to churches without violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment.  The method devised was to use churches as part of the government’s social services network, with the churches doing the same things they were doing before (supposedly) to help local communities, soup kitchens, bread lines and the like.  One of the main provisos being that the churches could not discriminate as to who got help based on their religious preference.

Bush liked to call the newly-minted government welfare recipients “little armies of compassion.”  Onward Christian soldiers!

There was a gentleman put in charge of this at the White House.  His name was J. David Kuo.  He died on Friday at the age of 44, having quit his job and turning critic.  There has as yet been no link established between the two events; supposedly he died of cancer.

He was told–not yet having an office, a staff or even office equipment–that an announcement would be made in several days by the president, and that the new project would then be rolled out.

This gentleman was there when Karl Rove, the Younger’s Chief of Staff, gave the order to get moving on the project to one of his aides.  When the assistant mentioned the problems listed above, Rove thundered, “Just get me a fuckin’ faith-based thing!”  The gentleman’s first indication, perhaps, that what was going on had little to do with faith and much more to do with advertising and political appeasement of the Religious Right.

Kuo later said that Bush had used the office as a “political prop,” and that the billions of dollars promised never really materialized.  He was disillusioned over his experience, as evidenced in his memoirs.

Evangelicals were thrilled when Bush the Younger stole the election from Al Gore.  Finally, they thought, we have our man in the White House.  Younger had promised the faith-based initiatives during campaign speeches, acting like he had found a new way to show compassion for the poor and homeless, when what he was really after was the evangelical vote; like all politicians, after he achieved the office of president, what he had said before and what he did in office were two different things.

A faith-based initiative is simply a euphemism that allowed religion to get through the “wall of separation” (Jefferson) between church and state in Bush the Younger’s White House.  Even with some strict guidelines, the entire project is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and never should have happened.

It is just one more harbinger of the end of the world as we know it.  Mr. Obama, instead of doing the right thing and abandoning the project, continued it during his failed presidency.  Eleven-year-old school children are aware of the establishment clause, what was the problem with these seasoned politicians, these “patriots”?

November 1, 2014

The Life of a Drudge…the 99 Per Centers, Part III

Ok, so you’ve made it through school.  You have $120,000 in school loans to pay back.  You discover to your alarm that you picked the wrong major and you can’t find a job.  You don’t have a car and you can just afford an efficiency apartment.

So you take a low-paying job in retail.  You return home exhausted after a long bus ride only to find that everything in your refrigerator is bad for you.  Your apartment is filled with bedbugs and other creepy crawly things, but over time you fix those problems yourself and settle down.  You make just barely enough to pay your rent and utilities bill, having to cut down on food and entertainment.

You turn on the television at night and watch cable news, wanting to keep informed, but the channel you choose is Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Religious Right, and all of the stories are slanted against liberals, gays, public education and abortion rights.  You find yourself watching The Daily Show more and more, just to get a different slant on the news.  After a time you sell the TV for food.

Your phone and internet connection are tapped illegally by the FBI and NSA because you sent a nasty e-mail to your congressman concerning his support for the war against ISIS in the Middle East.  Everything you read, watch and say at home is monitored.

You voted for the Republican in the last election for state senator (he seemed less of a crook than the other guy), only to find he just presented a bill to declare the U.S. Constitution to be a “Christian” document.  The find out the book you just read by a guy named David Barton, a preacher, was withdrawn by his publisher because he made up quotes by Thomas Jefferson, whom he despises.  The book was later published by Glenn Beck’s company.

The black salesman in the next apartment was killed last week as he raised a newspaper when a cop told him to put his hands up.  He’d just bought the paper from a kiosk and was on his way home.  He was wearing the new $125 suit he showed you after he got home from Macy’s.

There are some religious right fanatics up the street who go up and down in a convertible saying prayers for hours through a bull horn.  Preachers come to your door about once a week asking for financial help, and when you ask for their peddler’s license they call you a “dumb honkey mother-fucker.”  When you tell them you will give them a dollar if they show you which nostril it’s going up, they actually point to one after feigning indignation.  You turn over the dollar as promised.

The air is bad to breathe, the food is bad to eat, automobiles accelerate and crash for no known reason, terrorists are pouring over the borders with Mexico and Canada, Congress hasn’t passed one bill in two years due to deadlock caused by Tea Party Republicans, you are eligible for food stamps due to your low income, you haven’t been to church in three years because your minister was thrown in prison for molesting 197 children over a twenty-year period.  And after that happened, you began to think.  And think some more.  And you began to read some authors you never knew existed.

And you became a free thinker, an atheist, an unbeliever, an infidel.  And it felt so good.  Yes, life is good, after all, because it’s all you have or ever will have, and every breath you take is suddenly sweet, without guilt, without a sense of sin, without a god looking over your shoulder or into your brain; without a future.

Well, you ARE still a drudge, you will never amount to anything in the world.  But at least your mind is free.

October 31, 2014

The Life of a Drudge…the 99 per cent, PART II

Yesterday I discussed how most of us have been “imprisoned” in an educational system that has no intention of educating us or our children.

That covers us for eight or ten hours each day, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on the weekend if you add in extra-curricular activities, field or sporting trips, and so on.

What about what happens at home to children who are raised in a Christian home, specifically, a hard-core evangelical/charismatic/Fundamentalist Christian home?

All babies are born atheists, technically anyway.  Atheism is a lack of belief in a supernatural being or beings, and we aren’t going to know about God or Jesus or any of the rest of it until someone teaches us.  This is also why the best term for an atheist who is above the “age of reason” is Freethinker; once you’re able to think on your own and have discovered that you are okay with a lack of belief, you are officially a free thinker, freed from the bonds of religious indoctrination and the fantasies and delusions and fairy tales and fictions that comprise religious belief.

A child at home is a captive audience even before school age has been achieved.  In many if not most cases, as soon as a child can hear and see, mom and dad are singing hymns and taking her along to church and reading from the Bible or turning on an audio.

When the child is old enough to speak and carry on a conversation, the teaching begins, not only at home but also at church.  A young child has no choice.  She listens, looks at the books, sings the songs, until one day that first “Jesus loves me!” comes flying out of her mouth.  The captive audience has arrived and is ready to rock.

This is the second prison many of us were thrown into.  On the one hand is modern education, hell-bent on turning out functional idiots to do the drudge work of the world; on the other hand is home-schooled and church-schooled religion and religious faith.  Our second prison, but the primary scar most of us keep through adulthood.

What do you suppose is the first thing mom and dad have their kids read aloud?  The Book of Genesis.  The fountainhead of creationism and intelligent design, the rock of church history, the epicenter of misogyny, disdain for knowledge, wisdom, inquisitiveness, independence, reason, free will, ground zero for good and evil, sin and guilt, crime and punishment.  These are the key ingredients for religious faith, and these are pounded in day after day and year after year.

And pretty soon you’ll have eight-year olds giving sermons at their church, cursing the homosexual, cursing the abortionist, cursing the prognosticators of global warming, cursing the unbelievers and the infidels, cursing the feminists for failing to do their duties, cursing other churches for not being “charismatic” enough.  And just like mom and dad, lusting after the day when Old Testament law takes over the land.

Those are the kids who “excel.”  The rest of the 99 per cent are simply doomed to a life of delusion in the belief in God, a life filled with mental complexes resulting from feelings of guilt, the sense of sin or the commission of sin, a life of scorn for females for committing the Original Sin.  Never free to live for today, always obsessing over death–what will happen when I die, what will it be like, what to I have to do to avoid hell and get to heaven?  Never allowed to think freely and critically, to wonder, to wander.

Is this second prison worse than the first?

October 30, 2014

The Life of a Drudge…the 99 percent

Born, go to school, maybe go to college, work, retire (if you can), die.  That is the life of perhaps 99 per cent of Americans, the only variable being the amount of schooling.  Everything else, everything, is constant and universal.  You might be a bridge player, you might be a hunter, you might play chess, you might have any number of interests, hobbies or obsessions.  It all amounts to the same.

The truth is, you, if you’re part of that 99 per cent, have been a prisoner your entire life, doomed to failure and mediocrity, boredom and drudgery, debt and more debt, chained to your possessions and to your television or music, addicted by alcohol or drugs or prescription drugs, a victim of cancer or mental illness, with no hope of ever rising above your GIVEN station in life.

Before education was mandatory in this country, some people got together–the “haves” of the country like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie–and decided they couldn’t have millions of freethinking, creative entrepreneurs running around and possible one day competing with them.  They needed drudges to fill their factories and to do other work for them that was tedious, repetitive and relatively mindless.  The concept of modern education was born.

With the help of German influence, schools were turned into staging points for the future workers of the world.  You were never expected to actually learn anything, even up to the present day.  When schools like the old country schools, with multiple grades in the same room, were still run by teenagers looking for work, a fifth grader could read Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau and Moby Dick.  A fifth grader.  A child who is 10 years old.  Words were taught phonetically, students being taught to sound out words.

Prior to World War I, the literacy rate even among disadvantaged black folk was 80 per cent, with white literacy almost 100 per cent.  The rate fell between each successive world war; during the Vietnam War, over 600,000 potential recruits were rejected because they could not read.  What had happened?  Adopting the German system, which taught that education was to be a negative experience for each student, U.S. educators introduced same-age classrooms taught mainly by women to encourage bad behavior and classroom disruptions (I do not intend this to be a sexist statement; this was their thinking at the time).  They made sure no geniuses would come out of those schools ready and willing to challenge the Rockefellers of the world, the 1 per centers who sought to protect what they had and to eliminate future competition.

Ever since the turn of the century our schools have been factories for drudges and dummies, fit only for physical labor such as factory or warehouse work, or for menial jobs that require some mental skill but are far from challenging, such as clerical jobs, jobs like surveyors, mapmakers, city planners, accountants, or some jobs even more mentally challenging, like physicians, epidemiologists, veterinarians, chemists, nuclear engineers.

Your education was not tailored to your skills and talents; whatever skills and talents were latent in you were tailored, most probably downwards, by your education.  Those who escaped, people like Bill Gates, people who went through the system and still excelled, were rare indeed.  That is why we put them on the cover of Time Magazine or throw pies in their faces.  The vast majority of us succumbed to the dumbing-down process and “settled” for our jobs as businessmen, teachers, lawyers, factory workers, postal workers, clerks and retail workers.  We will all die, for the most part never realizing what has been done to us, just by our education.

Those kids we went to school with who regarded school as a prison were right after all.

October 29, 2014

ELECTIONS DRAW NEAR–BE CAREFUL WHO YOU VOTE FOR!

As the mid-term elections close in on us, think about your candidate.  Can you trust her?  Is this person reliable and competent?  Are you sure she’s not a….stealth Fundamentalist?

If you vote Democrat or Independent, chances are you won’t have this problem.  Democrats tend to favor abortion rights and access to birth control, so you won’t find many of them chumming around with the Pope or David Barton.

If you plan to vote for a Republican you have several questions to ask, and it’s unfortunate but true:  the Republican Party is virtually run and is dominated by the Religious Right, so you have to find out if your candidate is running for office in order to SERVE, or running for office in order to SWERVE our democracy towards a religion-dominated theocracy.

Find out what church your candidate goes to, you may pick up some interesting clues.  For example, if the church has a web site and somewhere in their statement of purpose they say “we believe in the inerrancy of scripture,” you are probably dealing with a biblical literalist in your candidate; that is, someone who believes that God created the universe and everything in it in six days, that the earth is flat, that he made a man from some dirt and water and a woman from the man’s rib, and that at some point later on He caused the earth to stop rotating (made the sun stop) to give his followers more daylight to fight a war.

Now, a person who believes all that is literally the truth, uh, definitely has some issues.  But as far as your vote goes, remember:  if this person places the bible above the Constitution, places religion above democracy, places her faith above loyalty to her office and to her constituents, then if you vote for this person you are effectively placing a Christian Fundamentalist “plant” in office.  This person will join others in the Religious Right already in Congress and elsewhere, and who have already made their mark by refusing to yield or compromise if that means their faith will be compromised.

That’s one of the big reasons we have deadlock in Congress today; nothing gets done because a large minority will not allow bills to pass that they feel violate their tenets of faith.  One result of this, among many, is that the president becomes, through no fault of his own, a dictator, having to use Executive or Emergency Orders to get things done.  President Obama is currently being sued over this very thing.  But why?

Think about your vote; don’t waste it.

October 26, 2014

Robert Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic

Freethinkers everywhere need to get familiar with some of our roots in America.  One very important strand of that root was Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), the son of a preacher who opposed slavery, an officer in the Civil War, fighting out of New York, and released from his duties after being captured and then turned loose.  The two sides in the Civil War had a working agreement that captured officers would be set free if they promised not to fight any longer, and this Ingersoll did.

After the war he held several jobs, including political positions, such as the Attorney-General of Illinois.  But he is remembered most for his stirring and unforgettable lectures and speeches, most of them having to do with his lack of belief in a supreme being and his opposition to the church.  Very much a supporter of the separation of church and state set forth in the First Amendment to the Constitution, Ingersoll wrote, “I tell you there is something splendid in man that will not always mind.  Why, if we had done as the kings told us five hundred years ago, we would all have been slaves.  If we had done as the priests told us, we would all have been idiots.  If we had done as the doctors told us, we would all have been dead.  We have been saved by disobedience.”  Perhaps this harkens back somewhat to the fact that Ingersoll came from preacher stock and he rebelled from that line.

So he was equally disdainful of leaders and leeches, and much to his credit, he had the temerity to put himself forth in the world and proclaim what he believed, or didn’t believe, with great gusto, eloquence and dignity.  He was such a gracious and noble man, and his speaking style was so mesmerizing that even many Christians delighted in his speeches.  As he wrote, “I claim, standing under the flag of nature, under the blue and the stars, that I am the peer of any other man, and have the right to think and express my thoughts.  I claim that in the presence of the Unknown, and upon a subject that nobody knows anything about, and never did, I have as good a right to guess as anybody else.”

Ingersoll was not only a freethinker, he was vehemently opposed to slavery and in favor of greater rights for women, and championed both causes, doing whatever he could to assist those movements.  But above all, he will forever be remembered as The Great Agnostic.

October 25, 2014

TEXAS GOVERNOR ELECTION DRAWING NEAR

One of the most important elections in the history of Texas is about to take place.  Wendy Davis, a state representative, is challenging Attorney-General Greg Abbott.

Wendy is the underdog, Greg is the company man.

One of Abbott’s ads compares Wendy to the president because she supports “Obamacare,” President Obama’s only claim to fame in an eight-year term.  It’s really the only important piece of legislation he ever had passed.

It is hoped that perhaps Justice Ginsberg will retire before Obama’s term is over.  If she doesn’t, and a Republican is elected, chances are we could get another Justice Scalia, a man who apparently has utter contempt for the Constitution and believes that the U.S. is a Christian nation and should be run accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with Obamacare, except perhaps that it’s too complicated and creates too many additional government positions, with over 100 committees established to help oversee the program.  So to try to use this against Ms. Davis doesn’t score too many points.

An additional charge is that Wendy will support EPA regulations that help the environment and which many Texas oil men believe hurt us; Abbott of course is for less regulation and more pollution for the sake of Mammon, of which he will of course skim his appropriate amount.

Wendy’s main claim to fame is her fight for women’s rights to control their own bodies.  The bill she filibustered against two years ago, and which eventually passed, was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  For a time, many abortion clinics in Texas had to shut down because of the new regulations contained in the bill that require hospital-quality conditions that small clinics find impossible to meet.

The problem with us Texans is that we’re used to doing things a certain way and having our way all the time.  This is compounded when the individual in question is also a right wing Christian Fundamentalist with dominionist or reconstructionist leanings.  Might as well be cast in cement.

So Wendy Davis does indeed have an uphill battle.  If voters would just remember that when they vote for a Republican they need to know what that person believes:  does he/she believe in our democracy and in the rule of law?  Or does he/she place Christianity above duty?  Because you could, for all you know, be electing a “stealth” Fundamentalist, someone who professes mainstream beliefs, liberal or conservative, but then abandons all that when he/she gets into office and makes himself a vehicle for right wing agendas.

That’s why I am now voting a straight Democratic ballot just to be on the safe side (I used to vote straight Republican until I realized how deeply the Christian Right has infiltrated the GOP; it’s become the nation’s first religious political party and it makes me sick to my stomach).

Vote Wendy Davis and you won’t be sorry!

October 24, 2014

SECURITY?  WHAT SECURITY?

The recent “attacks” on the White House in Washington, D.C. involving fence-climbers charging the building, have shown the world just how much America has learned since September 11, 2001, about making the country more secure.  Not much.  We can’t even protect the White House.  The White House.

To the world we still look like a bunch of dumb hillbillies who don’t know their rear ends from holes in the ground.

The last climber wasn’t even stopped by the Secret Service agents, but by two police dogs attached to the Service.  Dogs.  Dogs stopped him before the agents even got close.  He could have tossed or fired who-knows-what towards the building, including a Stinger missile if he had had one.

And this is just the beginning.  Every test of the TSA has come up failure, and in most cases the groups of men and women doing the testing are released before the tests are even completed.  Our government just sweeps it all under the rug, hoping no one will notice.

The worst, of course, goes all the way to well before 9/11.  Our national security is being compromised on two major fronts:  the first is American imperialism, including the installation of well over 900 military bases in foreign countries, some of them even in countries like France, Britain and Germany, where the only need for a military presence of the U.S. consists in stopping-off points for military forays into the Middle and Far East, and hospitals where they haul the dead and wounded from other parts of the world.

Now we even have bases, and big ones, in former Soviet bloc countries and even within the old Soviet empire.  Our base presence in Bin Laden’s home country of Saudi Arabia was the main reason for his anger towards the United States, causing the loss of thousands of lives in the 9/11 and other attacks on U.S. assets.  Resentment is high in many other countries as well, especially amongst average citizens, who have to live with the American occupation of their homelands; to them, our “heroes” are mostly drunken, arrogant rapists who vomit all over them as they try to go about their lives.

Our continual interference in the affairs of other countries in order to “Christianize, capitalize and democratize” their unique ways of life is an offshoot of our imperialism; it’s rarely accepted anywhere except by force or buying off the governments, and then it becomes a matter much like the former Soviet empire, a totalitarian nightmare and something the people will overthrow the second they are able to.

Our inability to “stay home,” because we are out protecting American oil interests and fueling the insatiable appetites of our war machine (munitions manufacturers, support companies such as Dick Cheney’s beloved Halliburton), in our endless war against “terror,” will continue to subject the U.S. to blowback attacks by other nations, factions, groups or sects, and we the common people of America are the ones who are going to suffer, much like the office jockeys in the World Trade Center did.

The second main cause of worry to our national security interests comes from within:  homegrown terrorists in the form of religious extremists, and we’re not talking about Muslims but about the people you sit next to in church every Sunday and who believe that if you are not a Christian, or not even the kind of Christian they think you should be, you are under a “curse” and are not even fit to vote or hold public office.  These are the people who kill abortion doctors and sing hymns on the way to prison, who want to install Mosaic or Old Testament law as our government, imprisoning or even executing homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers and others who break the code, people who want to place Republicans from the Religious Right in every public office, and who want to take away all of your individual rights as a human being if those rights conflict with their Christian ideal of personhood.  Radical, fundamentalist Christians pose perhaps the greatest national security threat of all to our nation.  It’s about time we all educated ourselves about it; if we don’t, we won’t know what hit us when the “coup” finally arrives.

Endless foreign conflicts, internal revolution from perhaps the least-expected (and therefore most surprising) source, the Christian Right.  If we can’t find a way to deal with these threats, we’re finished as a free nation.

October 23, 2014

The fight over marriage equality is, legislatively, and in the courts, being won by the LGBT community and those of us who believe that our laws should extend to all people who wish to get married.

The argument is quite simple:  there can be no discrimination on the basis of sex or gender or sexual orientation. There is no moral language about whether or not being gay is a choice (it isn’t).  Our position here is that it’s NOT a choice, that people are born that way, just as they were born black or white, right or left handed, blue eyes or green.  You can believe that within a very few years science will reveal the so-called “gay gene” and the argument will effectively be over–except for a select few, of course.

The Fundamentalists of all the major religions (Christian, Judaism, Islam) will read the Bible literally on this subject while reading it metaphorically or symbolically on other subjects.  For example, most RC bishops and even the Popes of late recognize evolution as a valid explanation of how the earth, plants, animals and humans evolved.  Which means they don’t believe everything was created in six days or that the earth is flat under a plasterboard of stars and other planets.  There is no way to read the Bible and mistake what it says, and therefore it can be said that the RC Church either no longer believes what the Bible says OR it thinks the Bible is WRONG.

“Cherry-picking” is a favorite hobby of Christians especially, choosing those Bible passages as true which validate their own world view.  This is kind of like pulling cards out of a tower you’ve made.  One of these days the whole thing is going to collapse because there won’t be enough cards to hold the tower up.

And so even the Roman Catholic Church moves with the times now and then.  If this is so, and it is so with evolution, then why can’t it move with the times on other issues?

The Synod that’s taking place right now has some interesting sidelights.  One bishop has threatened (he’s an American and lives in America) to boycott signing off on gay unions or performing wedding ceremonies.  This takes his paycheck for doing a wedding away in some thirty states right now, states which have passed laws allowing marriage equality.  “Allowing” equality:  that phrase seems so, so…60’s, doesn’t it?  With declining church membership, all churches are going to get hit hard as their congregations dwindle and as someone else performs the weddings.  Once the belts start to tighten on these luxury-fattened, pampered churchmen and women, things will start to move.

Most kids growing up reflect what their parents say about gays, and much of that is not very good.  Their parents go to church Sunday after Sunday and hear the priest or the pastor or minister rail against gays and gay marriage.  They go home and repeat it to their kids at the dinner table.  The kids repeat it at school and the bullying of suspected gays begins.  This chain of events leads to a possible conclusion that those who preach this kind of hate from the pulpit should be brought up on charges.  This is already happening in Houston, and it’s a good thing.  If you preach hate and encourage discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, you are violating the law.

Until we start putting a few of these preachers in the slammer for a few nights, they will just keep it up with business and hatred as usual.  But the states will all fall eventually, and someday these holy hillbillies will have to find something else to whine about from the pulpit.

October 20, 2014

TAKE MY WIFE.  PLEASE.

I’ve been reading a collection of essays in a book called “Everything You Know Is Wrong,” edited by Russ Kick.  One of those essays concerned today’s hot topic of domestic abuse, written by Phillip W. Cook.  You can learn quite a bit from a writer who approaches the subject objectively and dispassionately.

The main point of the essay is that, despite what appears to be the knee-jerk tendency to always blame the male, about half of domestic abuse can be placed on women.  Women abusing men.

The author shows that women are very often the first to throw a slap or a shove, and if the skirmish escalates, they are the first to grab some sort of weapon, be it a pair of scissors, a kitchen knife, or the .410 hanging over the door.  Women can be just as violent as men, even more so.

Men being abused is under-reported, and for obvious reasons.  Men not only fear scorn and humiliation at the hands of relatives, friends and co-workers, they are also afraid of going to jail. More times than not, when the police come to a home where there has been a domestic dispute, even if the man is the only partner showing the ill effects of combat, he is usually the one who goes to jail that night.

Men are also afraid to file for divorce from their wives over spousal abuse, because they are afraid of losing custody of their kids.

When President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990’s, the abuse of men wasn’t even mentioned.  There are virtually no hot lines for men to call or shelters for them to go to, although some organizations do take calls from both women and men.

When Stephan A. Jones was suspended from ESPN for one week for remarking that perhaps Ray Rice’s girlfriend had started the fight or had done something to make Ray react, he probably had in mind the kind of thinking I’ve been discussing here–men are abused as much, if not more, as women are, and just because there are two sexes involved in the fight doesn’t mean that one sex is ALWAYS to blame.  Admitted, men are generally in positions of power, our society is dominated by male leaders, our culture is patriarchal for the most part:  but let’s use a little common sense from time to time.  Men can be abused by women.

October 17, 2014

Rick Perry Actually Does Something Right!

The best way to stop Ebola from coming into the U.S. is to STOP PEOPLE from coming into the U.S. from Africa.

Today Texas Governor Rick Perry banned all travel into Texas from Africa due to Ebola virus fears.

Have we ever seen any one event so mishandled by our so-called leaders (except for Governor Rick today)??

What is the proper way to treat someone who comes down with a contagious disease?

A.  Fly that person overseas to America

B.  Fly that person around the United States, exposing potentially hundreds, even thousands of people

C.  KEEP THEM WHERE THEY ARE, TREAT THEM AND QUARANTINE THEM

I would say the last option fits the bill.  Instead, what have our leaders been doing?  They allowed a man from Africa into the United States, sick as a dog; allowed him to vomit all over Dallas and Dallas hospitals, making several nurses sick (who promptly decided to do some traveling of their own, of course), before he died as expected.

This is not a liberal/conservative issue.  This is a public health matter, and no matter how many times authorities tell us they “have everything completely under control,” don’t believe them.  This virus could kill us all.  You know, it almost makes you think they are screwing this up intentionally, like the Mad Cow disease fiasco.  Why would they do that?

They’ve been flying doctors and others back from Africa ever since the outbreak made some U.S. citizens sick several weeks ago.  That was their first mistake:  keep them in Africa, give them the best care they can get, quarantine them, and they will either die or recover fully.  THEN, AND ONLY THEN, should they be allowed back into the U.S.

By enforcing Perry’s ban on flights from Africa into Texas (and this should also include connecting flights from Africa originating elsewhere, including in the U.S.), we can now concentrate on putting the toothpaste back in the tube instead of having a steady flow of problems into the state.

Being the world’s “melting pot” does not include taking every other nation’s sick people!

Way to go, Rick, you FINALLY did something right!

October 13, 2014

Every now and then freethinkers ought to take a step back and consider some of the major goals of the Religious Right as it expands its influence into politics and the courts.

“Dominionism” has been called conspiracy theorists’ “mot du jour” because no sane person would actually subscribe to it or admit to holding such a world view, i.e. that Christians have been mandated by God to hold dominion over every aspect of life in America, including its government. Perhaps the same might be said for “Reconstructionism,” a movement founded by Rousas John Rushdoony that advocates the replacement of civil law with Mosaic or Old Testament law and Calvinist prescriptions.

Where a movement is going is usually evidenced by the actions and words of its leaders, and we as freethinkers need to listen to what they are saying, even if dominionism and reconstructionism, if played out to their logical conclusions, would involve the most radical, and perhaps even violent (see Freethought Today, April, 2007, “The Christianization of the Military”), political and cultural revolution in the history of the Western World.

First, a brief aside: “gradualism” has been accepted by many respected Muslim leaders as the best way to infiltrate secular societies by small, patient degrees, and it involves six stages, including Sharia over the individual, Sharia over the family, the society, government and finally Sharia over the world.

Dominionists, including Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, have described the “Seven Mountains of Influence Mandate” (from God, of course), which involve the gradual takeover (by small, patient degrees) by dominionist-Calvinist Christians of government, business, education, media, the arts and the church.

D. James Kennedy: “As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society…” Rolling Stone Magazine, April 7, 2005. Gary North: “Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land–of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.” The Changing of the Guard, 1987.

Somebody’s not going to get a chair, right? Both of these world-dominating views, Sharia and Dominionist, are long-term goals. Both come directly from the Koran and Old Testament as interpreted through the lens of inerrancy. Both are shockingly similar, and both involve a radical restructuring of our government and our lives. So before we get back to putting up another billboard, or closing down a team prayer, we need to take a nice, long look around and see where these absolutely serious and dedicated fanatics are taking us, and our world.

October 10, 2014

The forgotten clause in the Roe decision…

In 1973 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Roe v. Wade case.  It essentially legalized abortion, and has been the subject of conservative religionists’ ire ever since.

To me, the most important part of the decision was the declaration that, as a matter of law, an unborn fetus is not a person.  Thus, the destruction of that fetus before it becomes a person is not an act of murder, it’s a medical procedure chosen by women to be performed.  It’s the same as having a wart removed.

The Christian nut bags who’ve been running around for over 40 years now mad at this decision have tried their mightiest to change the definition of a “person” in the eyes of the public, but to no avail.  The law is the law, and until Roe is overturned by another Court at another time, and perhaps it will be, who knows?, a baby in the womb is not a person and has no legal right to protection.

The “killing” of unborn children, as Fundamentalists would express it, is not foremost on the Christian Right’s agenda.  What they cannot abide is that the Supreme Court has the final say on this matter, and they cannot control the Supreme Court.  It’s all about control to the Fundies, and if they don’t have it they become enraged like seven-year-olds who don’t get their way with their mommies.

All the picketing, all the marching, all the politicking to elect anti-abortion representatives, it’s all for nothing because none of that will ever change a Supreme Court decision.  All they are doing is acting out the futility of their position, of their future, of their lives.  What they seek is the very same thing radical Muslims seek:  total subjugation or death to all infidels.  That is precisely why the greatest threat to national security comes not from abroad but lies within our very own borders.

October 9, 2014

The Pledge of Allegiance…

Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist and former Baptist minister, was the originator of the Pledge in 1892, which he intended to make all school children of all races, nationalities and creeds, feel a sense of unity as they recited the Pledge together in school.

Bellamy was a “former” Baptist minister because he was tossed out of his pulpit in Boston for railing against capitalism!  Bellamy was also a staunch supporter of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.

The Pledge he authored went as follows: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  The Pledge was later changed from “my Flag” to “the Flag of the United States of America” to avoid confusion for children who were born in other countries.

The Pledge, as envisioned by Bellamy, came complete with a salute, arm extended, palm down and then up, a perfect “Nazi” salute well before there was such a thing as a Nazi.  Needless to say, when the Nazis came to prominence, with their stiff-armed salute of “Sieg Heil,” the salute for the Pledge was changed to a hand over the heart.

Around 1940, the Supreme Court ruled that a school board had the right to expel a student for refusing to recite the Pledge.  This turned out to be the perfect way to deny about 2000 Jehovah’s Witnesses an education.  In 1943 the Court reversed itself after seeing widespread violence against Witnesses in over 300 American communities.

In one of the most blatant violations ever of the establishment clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the words “under god” were added to the Pledge in 1954 by President Eisenhower and by Congress, even though a Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, had been using those words in their Pledge for several years.  The moving force behind this change was thus Catholic in nature and appearance.

This small change, a clear abuse of the principle of the separation of church and state, has created misery and bloodshed through the years, as children of secularist/atheist parents and others who have refused to recite the words “under god,” have been harassed, bullied and ostracized by the Christian fundamentalist mob.

Adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance is akin to the congressional amnesia that accompanied a chaplain’s prayer in the House, and a standing House chaplain, the White House Prayer Breakfast hosted by the president every year, and the rampant Christian proselytizing going on in the armed services and service academies on a daily basis.

You would think a sitting president and members of Congress were familiar with the Constitution enough to know that “under god” was a serious breach of the separation of church and state, especially since the Pledge was meant to be recited in public schools.  PUBLIC schools.  That means taxpayer attended, taxpayer funded.

October 8, 2014

I am a member of perhaps the most famous atheist organization in the United States, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Each month I receive a newsletter, and in that newsletter there is usually a section entitled “Sharing the Crank Mail,” which sets forth various forms of communication sent to FFRF by people who call themselves Christians.

Here are just a few of the comments FFRF received:

“You prevent chaplains in FLA from saying a prayer before games, but you don’t say a word when the goat fuckers want to build a Mosque, aka recruiting ground, in Minnesota?  You just want to eviscerate Christians, you God less cocksuckers.  FUCK OFF AND DIE.”  My, what a pleasant thought!  Wonder who it was, the chaplain or the football coach?

“All of your children need a bullet right between their eyes.”  This apparently from a Fundamentalist Christian upset that Bishop Sheen re-runs were no longer available on his cable service.  Murdering children for the “sins” of their fathers:  golly, that’s such a touching and rational thought, reflecting, no doubt, the genius behind it, who, one may guess, picks his nose in church and masturbates in the church lavatory while his wife is munching donuts.

“What about the muslim that prays out in public, or in state parks.  What about the Jews who wear a yamaka?  Is it that you only attack Christianity because you think that Christians are meek?  If that’s what you think then clearly you need to brush up on your history.”  OK, we brushed up on our history:  Inquisition, lynchings by the KKK, the support of Hitler and the Vietnam War, the murder of countless scientists and philosophers for contradicting church dogma, the instilling of a sense of guilt in all believers, scarring them for life, opposition to birth control of all forms, leading to teenage suicides, botched abortions by hacks, the dumbing down of our school textbooks so our kids wind up way behind the rest of the civilized world’s kids, leading to unemployment, depression, alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide, and first and foremost, robbing countless millions of children and adults the opportunity to live life without illusions, fantasies, outright lies and delusions.

September 29, 2014

Why the Tea Party and the neo-conservatives have it all wrong:

A major platform of the Tea Party argument is:  “Let’s get back to our roots, to the ideals of the founding fathers and the men who made this country great, let’s get back to a time when all citizens were white and believed in God!”

Their contention that America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles couldn’t be further from the truth:  which makes the Tea Party one big lie perpetuated by ignorant, Fox News-watching, Glenn Beck-listening, Koch Kool Aid-drinking, religious rightists and fundamentalists (even more right than right), people who probably have no idea who the first three presidents of the United States were.

The secularist nature of the Constitution (neither religion nor god is mentioned once) is no accident.  The process had been going on for nearly ten years when the delegates finally met to discuss and decide.  Many, if not most, of our Founding Fathers were deists–people who believed in a watchmaker God who withdrew after getting the ball rolling, and was heard from no more–a belief that many religious types at that time labelled as “atheist” or “infidel.”  

Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Monroe, even Washington and Hamilton, among others, were counted amongst the avowed deists of the time.  Jefferson’s deism was used heavily against him (much more so than his alleged affair with a female slave) in the 1800 election, but he won anyway.

All of them fought long and hard to forge the separation of church and state.  In the Treaty of Tripoli towards the end of the century, written by Monroe and negotiated by Washington, we stated explicitly that the U.S. is not a Christian nation.  If anything, the church at that time which represented what was going on in America more than any other had to be the Unitarian Universalist church, an offshoot Protestant sect.  Pluralism, diversity, inclusiveness, that was the goal of our Founding Fathers, hypocritical as it was (only white men who owned land could vote, and slaves were owned by everyone who had money; women were marginalized.)

So the next time you hear some Tea Party blowhard mention that our country was founded on Christian principles or that America is a Christian nation, please set them straight!

 

September 26th, 2014: A Southern Revolution

Anarchy is usually defined as a state of lawlessness and disorder, a breakdown of governmental authority.

Most people would probably agree that policemen shooting citizens at random (well, sort of) is one good sign of either anarchy or its opposite, totalitarianism, where the state has complete control over everything and whose agents can do pretty much what they please.

Such a situation is playing itself out in Ferguson, Missouri, a redneck town with a fairly lively black population, and no black officers on the police force.

On August 9 Officer Wilson shot and killed citizen Brown, who was walking across the street with a friend.  Brown was just a boy and was unarmed.

Officer Wilson was put on paid leave and still has not been charged or arrested by anyone for anything, much less for the murder of citizen Brown.

The necessary reports were either never filed or have been destroyed, because they do not exist, apparently, as was recently revealed in the mainstream media.  Those reports were not filed or were destroyed because there exists in Ferguson, Missouri a state of anarchy, led by the local police and supported by police and city officials, all white, all redneck, all racist.

As a result of this shooting, rioting, protests and various forms of anarchic behavior took place.  Further police anarchy ensued, with citizens and reporters and just plain old “Looky Lews” were clubbed, beaten, gassed and hosed.  Why?  Because in a state of anarchy, there are no laws.  Therefore, those who are most heavily armed have control.  In this case, even though many of the citizens of Ferguson no doubt possess firearms, they have not fired back at the officers.  Yet.

The only way to stop anarchy is to achieve greater numbers and greater firing power.  Once in control, a new regime can install whatever laws and rules, if any, it deems reasonable and necessary.

There is one way this could happen.  Much like the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s, busloads of armed and concerned fellow citizens could travel to the fair city of Ferguson, converge, join forces with armed citizens of Ferguson and either attack or counter-attack the police firepower until every officer and town official is dead or dying.

If they want anarchy, if they are going to shoot unarmed citizens without cause or common sense, if they are going to cover up the evidence, then in my view they should be paid back in kind.  With violence, chaos, anarchy, revolution.

Now, what’s unreasonable about any of that?

August, 31st, 2014

As the U.S. once more contemplates sending our troops into battle in Iraq, we as American atheists need to take a long look at what we can do to stop the war, the violence, the assassinations, and especially, the killing of our young people in combat overseas.
We have already taken the first step in identifying “faith” as perhaps the key adverse element in world conflict, whether it be Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia or the Sudan, as well as the greatest obstacle to educational advancement (particularly in the sciences) and political rapprochement here at home.
But simply identifying the main problem is not enough and will not save us, not from attack, not from economic collapse.
Ever since 9/11/2001 we have seen the rapid growth of politico-religious jingoism and the “hero-ization” of anyone wearing a service uniform. Fundamentalist Christianity has, for example, virtually taken over the service academies; “God Bless America” is sung at many baseball games between innings; generals have been quoted as believing that God is guiding our foreign policy and is acting through our presidents.
Neo-militarism has become one of the biggest public relations scams in our history, aimed directly at gathering support for our imperialistic foreign policy and unending “war against terror,” and benefits mainly the military, the munitions and weapons manufacturers, support companies such as Halliburton, and indirectly the big oil companies who see the fruits of our overseas labors in terms of new markets and new trade routes.
For a starter, don’t swallow the Kool-Aid. Discourage open displays of militarism in your family, on your street, in your schools, at your events. Be prepared to explain why you feel this way. Try to make others realize that conformity is not your thing, that you think for yourself and they should too.
The new militarism is wedded to the misplaced alliance of faith and morality; perhaps if we show our opposition to war and warlords we may eventually create an epistemic re-evaluation of faith.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Being an atheist simply means I lack belief in a higher or supernatural being, God or gods.  That fact has nothing to do with the rest of my life:  it doesn’t mean I burn bibles or spit on babies or, on the other hand, give lots of money to charity.

Atheism is an epistemology, and it does not make a person good or bad.  The rest of the atheist’s life is hers or his.

This includes political beliefs or affiliations.  For many years I was a diehard Republican.  Recently I’ve grown alarmed at the takeover of the Republicans by the Tea Party and Fundamentalists; the Republican Party is fast becoming our first religious party in the U.S.

Good news today, though, when a federal court threw out a Texas law that closed down many women’s health centers and abortion clinics.  I believe a woman, as evidenced in Roe v. Wade, has the right to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, and further, what she can do with her own body.

Wendy Davis, candidate for governor, was on the winning side of this debate, while AG Greg Abbott was on the wrong side, and, like every other sore loser, has already vowed to appeal the lower court decision.

A good day for Texas and Texans.

Science and Religion–The “Quick Study” Atheist: Let’s Read!

It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve been reading all of the atheist-oriented literature I can get my hands on, but one thing that has surprised me, perhaps more than anything, is the amount of science–hard, difficult science–that I’m picking up.

If you begin to study atheism, one of the first things you learn is that religion has put science back centuries.  One writer I’ve encountered even suggested we could conceivably have had a man on the moon by 650 A.D. if it hadn’t been for religion persecuting and censoring and banning science and scientists and fostering fantasies and fictions.

It has given me hope on one issue:  it seemed to me that Fundamentalists were running roughshod over our government, our military and our schools.  Schools in particular, because that is where you can turn a young mind into a soldier.

But the “Intelligent Design” crowd is not winning the fight in schools.  They have no scientific peer reviews to back up their claims, and their only hope is to get an audience as scientifically backwards as they are, and sometimes they do, but not as often as I had feared.

You learn about evolution and you read Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins.  You learn about how the universe works and the Big Bang and how and when the earth was formed, and you read Stephen Hawking.

And suddenly you are reading quantum physics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, anthropology, paleontology, psychology, and you learn about quarks and Higgs bosuns, the reduced Planck mass and black holes.

It’s a journey you just weren’t expecting, but that’s the kind of ammunition  one needs to begin to wage a private or public war against the forces of ignorance, bigotry, misogyny and racism.  The backbone of religion. 

If you learn how the universe works, how it expands and contracts and then expands again, how mass and energy have always been there, how the human eye evolved, how old the earth is, then you have a lot of what you need to defend yourself or stage a surprise attack on your opponents or your audience.

Take a look at some of the suggested reading titles.  It is by no means a full list or even a big one, but they are all books that have helped me along on my own journey.  David Mills, author of Atheist Universe, stated somewhere in that book that Amazon has only about 400 atheist titles listed, so things are just getting started.  Dawkins and Dennett are getting up there in years and Hitchens is gone, so we will be relying on many of the young guns that are making waves right now, including Mills and people like Sam Harris and Michel Onfray.

Do yourself a favor:  read, read and read some more!  Jack Mathys, editor

How the Bible was Invented, by M. M. Mangasarian

(Summary and Highlights)

M. M. Mangasarian, 1859-1943, was a “reformed” minister who was active in the American rationalist and secular movements.  This short book was delivered as a lecture in Chicago in 1911 and still rings true today.

Mangasarian, of Armenian descent, claims here that the Bible “is an Oriental book” and therefore is full of lies and deception, much in keeping with the culture of the East.  And this is not only in the way the Bible was written, or “invented,” but in what it says.

Paul of the New Testament admits to being full of “craft and guile” and can be “all things to all men.”  In Thessalonians, Paul says that in support of Christianity, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe in a lie.”  Even God is a liar and schemer.

The author also claims that early Christians plagiarized pagan literature, such as that of Seneca, Pliny, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius, and put it into their own works.  An “age of literary fraud” characterized the first few centuries after Christ supposedly was crucified.  Mangasarian is openly indignant:  “when I picture to myself an Asiatic scribbler, a sectarian, a clown, a rogue, a cheat, tampering with the works of a dead master…defiling the thought of the philosopher with the foulness of his superstition!”

In the transition from paganism to Christianity, culminating with the reign of Constantine in the 4th century, many buildings, shrines, monuments, as well as many literary and philosophical works of the pagans were destroyed by the Christians–“whatever was deemed unfavorable to the new religion.”  Sound familiar??  Such actions were a fitting prelude for the totalitarian reign of Constantine!  After Christ (if Christ even existed), there were only a few hundred Christians in the world, but the religion slowly gained momentum until, under Constantine, it shook the world.  Very similar to the beginnings of the Nazi movement in Germany after the loss of World War I.

The Bible, a book the authorship of which is full of lies, deceit, manipulation, plagiarism and fraud, is even, according to the author, less moral than it is true.  “A book which commands murder, plunder, persecution for opinion sake, slavery and credulity of the most abject kind, can not very well be recommended as a moral text-book.”

It is indeed strange to read a “man of the cloth” stating that most of the stories in the Bible are “pure fabrications,” and that most of the authors were “myth-mongers” with personal and political agendas, hoping that their crimes would be glossed over in the name of “righteousness.”  

He even claims that the so-called authors of the four gospels were in fact long dead when the gospels were written, and that “religious partisans” used their names to disguise their forgeries and other misdeeds in presenting these works as inspired by God.

The Bible, fraudulent as it is and with a history that spans over twenty centuries, was certainly NOT the inspired word of God.  It was a collection of made-up or stolen stories, poems, parables and biographies, written by a bunch of hustlers and thieves with no scruples or hesitations, but with plenty of agendas–personal, political, cultural and social.  It is possible even the story of Christ is a total fabrication:  what evidence do we have that he even existed?  Very little and even that highly questionable.

“The Bible has for centuries blocked the way of progress.  As an infallible book it has enslaved conscience and encouraged intolerance..”

The tyranny of the Bible.  So many stories, so little truth, so little authenticity.  Perhaps the greatest scam, literary or otherwise, in the history of mankind.

Michel Onfray’s The Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam

Summary and Highlights:

Part One

One of the monumental works of modern atheist thought, Michel Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto:  The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam is worth an in-depth look.  

Michel Onfray:  French, born 1959, author of over 50 books, all of them in French with rare translations into English, such as the Atheist Manifesto (2007).

The book begins with a rifle shot from the very first line after the title page, a quote from Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo:  “The concept of ‘God’ invented as a counter-concept of life…”  A “concept.”  An idea.  Something formed in the mind.  Whose mind?  God is man-made.  God made in man’s image and not the other way around.  And a “counter-concept of life”?  Something opposed or contrary to or wrong.  Man inventing his own destruction, but perhaps in order to avoid destruction or death.  The opposite of human life is God, made divine, all-knowing and all-powerful–all the things that mankind isn’t, in order to flee from death with dreams of living forever, like God and under His protection.  Man invented God, heaven, the soul, eternity–in order to escape the cycle of life and death.  A flight from life:  death-in-life.  

“The concept of the…immortal soul, invented in order to despise the body, to make it sick.”  Remember Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden–clothing themselves after they realized they were naked.  The bite from the apple of the Tree of Knowledge.  They chose, Eve chose, knowledge over immortal life (the fruit of the Tree of Life), the greatest symbolic decision in the history of mankind, even though just a fable.  Knowledge is bad, the human body is bad–“Gosh, I could’ve had a bite from the Tree of Life!”  Adam and Eve sinned, according to the rules set down for them, by choosing knowledge over immortality.  Only the soul remained immortal, thus the body is to be despised, shamed, covered and punished.  But where is the soul?  The soul belongs to God (or Satan), so it doesn’t matter what happens to the body as long as the soul is prepared for God.  Is there anything to compare in hopelessness to such a rendering of life as a meaningless exercise in futility as we wait to die and join God in heaven?

Introduction

Onfray: “The invention of an afterlife would not matter so much were it not purchased at so high a price:  disregard of the real, hence willful neglect of the only world there is.”  “Atheism is in harmony with the earth.”  

Mankind got rid of death by doing away with it–by wishing it away, with wishful thinking and daydreaming, God and the afterlife, the spirit and the soul, heaven and hell.

Atheism is life-affirming, body-affirming, knowledge-affirming, whereas religion is nothing more than a fantasy, some say a delusion (which is, by the way, a mental illness (“Atheism is not therapy but restored mental health.”)).  Onfray’s main gripe is not so much with the individual believer–anyone is free to believe what they want, and if they want to fill their heads with fantasies, fables and delusions, they are welcome to it, although they are encouraged to think and work through it–but rather with those who turn those individual fantasies and fairy tales into something much more sinister and organized:

“My atheism leaps to life when private belief becomes a public matter, when in the name of a personal mental pathology we organize a world for others.  For between personal existential anguish and management of the body and soul of our fellow human beings, there exists a whole world in which those who profit from human anguish lurk in concealment.”

Religious leaders and churches compound the harm that is done to the individual by spreading the pathology, “like manure,” all over the world.  We are led by the nose by others whose agendas run far away from the me and him as they push their way into the world seeking to control and bodies and souls of others.  

We have ample evidence of what that entails–the purges, the genocide, the inquisitions, the banishments, even to the point of collaborating with a genocidal government like Nazi Germany.  To this day, the Catholic Church has failed to officially apologize for its role in the Holocaust, only recognizing the State of Israel in 1993.  

And all the way down to the money-grubbing, grandma-robbing televangelists, who prey on the old, the sick and the infirm day in and day out until they get every last penny some people have; money given to reaffirm a dream, money taken to buy a new Caddy.

Onfray champions a new Enlightenment, a new Age of Reason:  “Sound use of our understanding, rational ordering of our minds, implementation of a true critical will, general mobilization of our intelligence, the desire to evolve while standing on our own feet–all these are strategies for dispelling phantoms.”

In Texas, where I live, there is a yearly battle over school textbooks and what they will teach, specifically evolution versus or in addition to creative/intelligent design (just a fancy way of saying that God created the universe).  No other country goes through these kinds of battles over the minds of our kids, because virtually the rest of the civilized world recognizes the correctness of the evolutionary model of being and creation.  The U.S. is the only country where we are willfully trying to “dumb down” our own kids for the sake of a demented religio-political agenda; and our science and math test scores keep going down and down.  Moms and dads are willing to sacrifice the futures of their own kids in order to prove a pseudo-scientific point that has virtually no scientific support, anywhere, in order to advance their twisted religious views of how the rest of society ought to raise its kids and live its lives.

Onfray uses the term “atheology” to describe his modus operandi, the philosophical deconstruction of religion right down to its roots, using psychology and psychoanalysis, metaphysics, archaeology, paleography, history, mythology, and so on.

Atheology

Onfray believes we are in the midst of a “cult of nothingness,” an atmosphere of hopelessness and nihilism, of which the announcement (by the New York Times some 50 years ago) that “God is dead” is only a small component.  After all, can a fiction die?  Ask your religious friends how old God is.  Is it possible he could die, or has?  How do you know?  Why is it important if God is invisible or unknowable anyway?

The author puts it this way:  “God, manufactured by mortals in their own…image, exists only to make daily life bearable despite the path that every one of us treads towards extinction.”  So far from killing God, the illusion (or delusion) that is God “puts to death everything that stands up to him, beginning with reason, intelligence, and the critical mind.”  Remember our Tree of Knowledge–Eve sought knowledge, even at the price of mortality, and was punished for it.  Ironically, a noble act of rebellion that reverberates to this day.  Isn’t that what the whole abortion debate is over?  A woman chooses to control her own body using her critical thinking about the choices she has, and, ever since Roe v.Wade, has been shunned, shamed, bullied and put down, especially by other women (who know their place, yes!).  The battle over abortion has nothing to do with fetuses or babies; it’s entirely about misogyny and women’s rights, other people who think they know better how women should manage their bodies and what decisions they should make.  It is a manufactured mob rule instigated by preachers and hard-liners; it’s refusal to accept a Supreme Court ruling is just one example of how the rule of law means nothing to many of our citizens when pitted against a misguided religious zeal based on delusions and fantasies.

One of Onfray’s major points in the book is the association between religion and death:  “Creation of the divine coexists with terror of the void in a life that must end.”  Religion is born of fear, not only of daily dangers and thoughts of future dangers, but from fear of our final end–death, termination, extinction.  Denial turns death into a new beginning, and so is born God, heaven, the spirit and the afterlife.  Onfray believes that belief and disbelief were simultaneously born:  God and the devil, life or no life after death.  Atheism rejects the fiction of God that man invented in order to flee a certain mortality.

From the beginning, the authorities used these fictions to consolidate their power over their subjects, a point brought home by Hobbes and Spinoza.  If the leader says that God exists and He is on the side of the earthly throne, then all who disbelieve are anti-social rebels to be cast out or cast aside.  As most of the words used to describe atheists are negative–impious, unbeliever, miscreant–the life-affirming and positive aspects of atheism are never given a chance to show forth.  Belief in God soon becomes a government imperative in order to keep the sheep inside the pen.  Onward Christian soldiers!

While ridiculing and ostracizing atheists, religionists have come up with some completely novel ways of worshipping their god or gods, and with impunity:  Roman cults of filth, farts and sewers, cow dung and urine used by the Hindus in their ceremonies, even Ezekiel had a recipe (inspired by God, of course) for using human waste in cooking.  Weird, huh?  But at least they aren’t atheists!

The few times in the history of Christianity when unbelievers had the upper hand were short-lived, such as the French Revolution in the late 18th century, when churches were turned into hospitals and schools, and atheists were free to write as they pleased without fear of blowback.  The term “atheist” throughout much of Western history was attached to anyone who resisted the norm, authority or the rules of society.  As Onfray puts it, “The atheist was a man free in God’s eyes–and ultimately free to deny God’s existence.”  What could be more liberating than to refuse to participate in the mass stupidity and infantilism that created the fictions of God, the angels, heaven and hell, everlasting life and answered prayers??  American cinema always seemed to make a hero out of the strong, silent, smart loner-types; and, although it cannot be said that any great films with a great hero were ever made on the subject of atheism, it can be asserted that you seldom saw such a man or woman praying or calling out to God when things went south or got rough.  The “atheist” has been brought up to be an anti-social loner with a mean streak and libertine ways–it’s high time atheists formed a more cohesive unit, communicating and networking with one another in order to try to stave off the constant threat of theocracy in our schools, our courts, our Congress and our White House.

Onfray recommends to his readers several early works: Jean Meslier, whose book entitled Memoir:  Clear and Evident Demonstrations of the Vanity and Falsity of All the Religions of the World, was published after his death, in 1729 (From Common Sense:  “If they would but take the trouble to sound the principles upon which this pretended science (theology) rests itself, they would be compelled to admit that the principles which were considered incontestable, are but hazardous suppositions, conceived in ignorance, propagated by enthusiasm or bad intention, adopted by timid credulity, preserved by habit, which never reasons, and revered solely because it is not comprehended.”  Baron d’Holbach, The System of Nature, 1770 (he also wrote Good Sense Without God, from which one can glean:  “…religion is the art of turning the attention of mankind upon subjects they can never comprehend.” “When the brain is troubled, they believe everything, and examine nothing.”).  Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, 1841, in which he asserts that men created God in their own, opposite or inverted, image.  We are weak, God is all-powerful, etc.  “Religion thus becomes the exploitation par excellence of man’s vulnerability to deception.”  

And then comes Nietzsche:  “For the first time, radical and well-thought-out post-Christian thinking appeared on the Western landscape.”  Nietzsche went beyond a mere assertion of atheism:  he claimed a new set of morals, a new value system was needed–God is no more, now what?  In order to go beyond mere nihilism we need to follow the path of atheism where it leads.   And where it leads is towards a life-affirming, fearless new chapter in philosophy:  a new Enlightenment based on reason, critical thinking and a deconstruction of (especially) the new anti-philosophy that threatens to usher us right back into the Dark Ages.

Onfray believes we are in the beginning stages of a “post-Christian era,” as we now sit somewhere in the transitional phase from Christian to post-Christian.  Whereas atheism and philosophy look to the future, religion still looks to the past, insisting on imposing its rigors, fables and fictions, social and cultural conservatism, on one and all, while remaining politically reactionary and personally nostalgic.  It is no longer Jews and Christians against Islam, but rather all monotheisms against a new progressive atheism hell-bent on saving the world from being destroyed by religion!

Our current age Onfray characterizes as “nihilistic,” and perhaps mostly because we are nearing the end of the Christian era marked by violence, hatred, discrimination, brutality of the worst kind for the last thirty centuries.  Everything is permitted because there is a God, in the name of God.

“God’s existence, it seems to me, has historically generated in his name more battles, massacres, conflicts and wars than peace, serenity, brotherly love, forgiveness of sins, and tolerance.” 

He makes an interesting point:  while the current age is decidedly not atheistic, the Judeo-Christian man or woman on the street has for a while been allowed to study and discuss many theological issues without priestly intercession; those who look forward to a post-Christian era should be wary that irrational beliefs and superstitions may become exaggerated by the so-called “mob” left to its own devices, as it were, possibly ushering in a new period of Inquisition and persecution of non-believers and “infidels”: “…their former subjects remain submissive, manufactured, formatted by two millennia of history and ideological domination.”

Our society, such as medical care and the courts, is still based largely on a Judeo-Christian ethic.  Look at the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, in which Justice Alito decided with four other male justices that the owners of Hobby Lobby did not have to pay for contraceptive care for female employees because the Green family, which owns the chain, held a “sincere religious belief” that life begins at conception (not even a religious belief, but a pseudo-scientific opinion)!  Our courts are based on the notion described in the very first book of the Bible–men and women have free will, and if they choose to do evil instead of good, they will be punished for their crime if they are held responsible.

Religion is so deeply imbedded in our culture and in almost everyone’s psyche.

“Man is forbidden to seek awareness; he should be content to believe and obey.  He must choose faith over knowledge, suppress all interest in science, and instead prize submission and obediance.”

Onfray recommends an “atheistic atheism,” that is, instead of a bellicose denial of God shouted at the top of our lungs, a going to work on “postconflict reconstruction.”  “Negation of God is not an end in itself, but a means of working toward a post-Christian or frankly secular ethic,” one that builds new paradigms to work and live by.  It’s one thing to say there is no God, it’s quite another to live it out ethically and morally.

“The next step is to formulate a new ethic and produce the conditions for a true post-Christian morality in the West–a morality in which the body is not a punishment; the earth ceases to be a vale of tears; this life is no longer a tragedy; pleasure stops being a sin; women, a curse; intelligence, a sign of arrogance, a passport to hell.”

Monotheisms

When the gods of the three main monotheisms were created, they were done so in man’s own image, faults and all: “violent, jealous, vengeful, misogynistic, aggressive, tyrannical, intolerant…”  Onfray returns to one of the main points of his book:  God was invented so man could avoid death, so man could live after death, so man could defeat death.  And the result is:  “Their glorification of a (fictional) beyond prevents full enjoyment of the (real) here below.  And what motivates them? The death instinct and unceasing variations on that theme.”

“Live for today” we used to say in the ’60’s.  What I didn’t realize then was that this statement could not be more secular; for the Christian lives…for tomorrow!  Disdaining the body and all its pleasures, waging war to provoke an end-time scenario, dreaming of an afterlife having sex with 72 virgins after blowing oneself up in a crowded Tel Aviv neighborhood, all this because life begins at death for the believer!  What could be sadder and more pathetic?  A wasted life in anticipation of a fiction based on a lie.

“Religion proceeds from the death wish.”  And from the death wish comes all manner of self-destructive behavior, violence and murder; Onfray thinks this is a result of the self-hatred that religion generates:  hatred of the body, of intelligence, and a love or liking of everything that “stands in the way of a gratified subjectivity.”  “Life crucified and nothingness exalted.”

The story of Adam and Eve (in all three books of the monotheisms) was, and is, the most devastating and destructive fiction in the history of literature.  Hatred of intelligence, hatred of women, hatred of a failure to submit and be obedient, hatred of the human body, guilt and punishment. Knowing good and evil, having wisdom (from eating an apple?  Come on!), put Adam and Eve on a par with God, and for that, but mainly for their disobedience (if they were thinking clearly maybe they should have rushed over and eaten from the Tree of Life to achieve immortality before they were condemned!), they were banished forever from the Garden.

The reality Adam and Eve and their progeny faced was full of proscriptions and taboos and rules for living, many of them listed in the books but many more invented by the men who worked as middle men for God, the priests and church hierarchy.  A race that messed up the very first chance they had to obey God was beset by guilt from the onset and had to be, from then on, guided through life.  

And so came along the priests and holy men, every bit as devious, manipulating, mendacious, thieving and self-serving as the men who put the bibles together.  Every aspect of life, from what eat to what to wear, even how to wash, had a rule, and mankind had to submit in order to prove his allegiance to God and to the one true religion.  Man’s will was thus put in a prison of social, physical and cultural restraints; is it any wonder, then, the zeal men displayed when called upon to help “correct” the heretics, witches and unbelievers?

In addition to this, books Christianity did not like were burned, sometimes along with the intellectuals and philosophers who wrote them.  Knowledge and learning was restricted to the main book, and those who sought knowledge for its own sake had to take cover.  “Refusal of the Enlightenment characterizes the monotheist religions:  they prefer mental night for the nurturing of their fables.”  (As late as 1976 in Iran, church leaders put out a statement that the earth was flat and that anyone saying differently was a heretic!)

In about the 5th century A.D., Leucippus and Democritus led the way to the discovery of the atom and the theory that matter is made up of atoms, leading to, among other things, Epicurean physics and the materialist philosophy.  Validated by modern science, this “philosophical atom” presented an early affront to the Christian notion of the immaterial soul; while science has moved on, the Church has not!  Early Christians chose to attack Epicurus and his followers (the messengers) in order to discredit materialism; somebody’s filthy little mind transcribed the Epicurean creed of pleasure into sexual liaisons with….animals!  The Church has maligned, tortured and assassinated materialists all through the ages, and Onfray suggests that the doctrine of transubstantiation may have something to do with it as well:  the bread and the wine are not actually there, although the blood and body of Christ is!  Matter that is there is not there, but we are tricked into thinking it is there by the characteristics of liquid and bread, and what is not there is there–real and substantial.

“Materialism is still on the prohibited list of the contemporary church.”!  The monotheisms, and Christianity in particular, have been a heavy millstone around the neck of science and scientific inquiry for about 2000 years now.  For the churches, there was but one science book required:  The Bible, and anything that contradicted what the bibles contained was dealt with accordingly–just think Galileo, polygenesis, atomism, etc.

“The believers’ condemnation of scientific truths–the atomist theory, the materialist option, heliocentric astronomy, geological dating, transformation of species, evolution, psychoanalytic therapy, genetic revolution–all loudly proclaimed the triumph of Paul of Tarsus, who had called for knowledge to pass away.”

Two fantasies of particular interest are angels and heaven, or paradise, created as the perfect and spiritual opposites of life on earth.  They are common to all three monotheisms, but Islam takes first prize for the splendor and extravagance of its paradise.  It seems that all the rules Muslims follow on earth are forgotten about in paradise, where you can eat and drink whatever you want, where coolness is eternal and there’s a virgin in every bed.  This is what the suicide bombers look forward to:”…falsehoods so improbable as to stagger even the meanest intelligence.”

Is it any surprise that all three monotheisms excel at misogyny?  In early August of 2014, when this summary and review was written, a Somalian woman was killed by Muslim militants for refusing to wear a veil, as required by her religion.  What is more important than a woman’s life?  Answer (from the gunman):  adhering to the law of the Koran, especially if you happen to be a woman, the source of all sin, all desire, all rebellion.  It seems that Eve touched a nerve in a the male ego when she led the way to gaining knowledge of good and evil.  It was Eve who negotiated with the serpent; it was Eve who decided to try the fruit and disobey God; it was Eve who tempted Adam to do the same and cause the Fall of Man; it was Eve who, against all prohibitions, chose reason and wisdom over eternal life and a slave-like obedience to God.

Men haven’t yet gotten over the shame of being second in line at the food court.  The Koran, for example, doesn’t even mention the first woman’s name.  Blamed for the Original Sin, woman has been punished, put down and subordinated ever since, good only for cooking and making babies.  It is easy to see how Muslim women are treated today, as revealed above; and the Christian woman?  The Church and other Fundamentalists are still trying to control women’s bodies (see the June 30, 2014 Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court), still trying to make sure they have as many babies as possible, still treating them as second-class citizens in the work place.  This also explains why the Church refuses to face facts about homosexuals, hating them as much as it hates abortion and birth control.

Freud, of course, had a field day with all this.  The male fear of castration:  if Eve could squeeze the balls of God and tell Him to shove off, how will she treat the man if she isn’t controlled by religion?

CHRISTIANITY

There is no historical proof that Jesus ever existed.  The few Roman authors who mentioned him cannot be substantiated, as the name of Jesus came up in copies of their works several centuries after his alleged killing, just coincidentally during the ascent of Christianity in Rome.  All during the first century there was tension between the Jews and the Roman oligarchy, culminating in the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70.  With no military or other brute power with which to fight the Romans, early Christians resorted to a time-honored tactic in wartime:  propaganda.  Thus was the myth of Jesus Christ born.

End of Part One (TO BE CONTINUED…)

Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll

(Summary and Highlights)

An intensely-researched study of American policy in Afghanistan from 1978 until the eve of 9/11, Steve Coll’s (Coll is a journalist and Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, a winner of two Pulitzer prizes and a National Book Award) Ghost Wars shows how we got into that mess in the first place, and how, by our alliances, future blowback led to 9/11 and other terrorist attacks on the United States, its embassies, ships, troops, and other interests.

The amazing thing about this book is that Coll draws or makes no conclusions. He presents the evidence and allows the reader to decide. Many of his interviewees do give their opinions, but there is a reader’s advantage here: we can take all the information in and see a larger picture forming.

Our conclusions may differ, and while the evidence sometimes points in several different directions at once, the average reader MUST come to certain conclusions regarding how the Soviet war in Afghanistan started, which side WE were on and what we did to support that side, and how we conducted our foreign policy after the Soviets withdrew.

Coll carefully and with full documentation shows us how the Carter administration, and in particular National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, thought it would be great fun if we could somehow suck the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan, which that country did in 1979. We assisted, armed, gave money to and trained rebels (the mujahideen) who at that time were fighting against a new communist government in Afghanistan which had the full support of the Soviets. It got to the point where the Soviet army had to step in and help prop up the government, and they found themselves in a full-scale war for 10 years.

The Americans, particularly the CIA and the State Department, joined with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as the three main supporters of the rebel alliance (well, “alliance” is hardly the word for it, as rebel leaders fought against each other probably more than they fought the Soviets). We knew the people we were supporting were Islamic Fundamentalists and extremists (Bin Laden’s gang eventually joined up with the rebels), but we chose what we saw as the lesser of two evils.

One of the main sub-stories to all of this was the infusion of extremists from Saudi Arabia into Pakistan and Afghanistan to train and fight in the battle against the communist government and the Soviets. After the Soviets eventually pulled out of Afghanistan (they lost the war just as surely as we lost Vietnam), the elder Bush administration virtually ignored Afghanistan, although a civil war was raging between former rebel leaders. About the only issue that continued to interest us in that area was BUYING BACK OUR OWN STINGER MISSILES. Up to $150K per missile. We supplied around 800 missiles to the rebels, in addition to countless rifles, grenade-launchers, ammunition, etc., so we already paid for them once. After the Soviets left we wanted them back so they couldn’t use them to shoot down OUR planes and helicopters!

A new group, allied with Bin Laden, called the Taliban (“The Students”), gained in strength and took over a large portion of southern Afghanistan. It was from this base in Afghanistan that Bin Laden planned and launched his terrorist attacks against the U.S., and eventually, 9/11.

A good portion of the book is devoted to the Clinton administration’s efforts (or lack thereof) to capture or assassinate Bin Laden as he moved about Afghanistan (including an early use of missile-laden drones). Again and again the CIA had zeroed in on Bin Laden, and again and again Clinton failed to push the “go” button. Bin Laden hated the U.S. mainly because it put military bases in his home country of Saudi Arabia.  Saudia Arabia is the home country of Islam’s most sacred site, Mecca.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supposedly our friends throughout the war with the Soviet Union and after, were shown by Coll to be anything but. Pakistan supported the Taliban as it grew in strength and political power, and provided warnings to Bin Laden concerning planned attacks on him or his compounds. As we know, Bin Laden was living in Pakistan when he was killed.