Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fundamentalists in Uproar over Golden Compass Film

The Golden Compass will be released on December 7 and already the right-wing Christians have their panties all in a knot over the content of the film. No, it doesn't have excessive violence and blood-spatters nor does it have overt sex or foul language. And it is pure fiction.

But! Always the 'but.' The fundamentalists describe it as "militantly atheistic," "blasphemous," "heretical," and "diabolical," according to David Yonke, religion editor of The Blade. He reports that the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the American Family Association are among the groups calling for a boycott.

According to the website of the American Family Association: The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth and traditional family values. Interestingly, on a Google search for that name, a link to "homosexual agenda" appears in the search. End of story and legitimacy.

The author of the trilogy upon which the movie is based, Philip Pullman , said in a recent interview that he was "a religious man" because he is "preoccupied by the questions religion is preoccupied with," including "Who created the universe?" "What are we here for?" and "What happens when we die?" Yonke also reports: "Mr. Pullman has made it clear that he is not happy with the way religious institutions have answered those questions."

My, my, Mr. Pullman, surely you know the answer: it's magic!

Catholic Church Frets Over Losses to Pentecostals

The photo, perhaps, is the answer to the question.

VATICAN CITY - The Roman Catholic Church must figure out what it is doing wrong in the battle for souls, because so many Catholics are leaving the church to join Pentecostal and other evangelical movements, a top Vatican cardinal said yesterday. [Blade]

Oh, really? Maybe they could have asked those former Catholics who left. Or the ones still in the pews.

Here's a clue: look closely at the photo above. First, two Swiss guards wearing costumes from the 14th century. Second, the all-male cardinals dressed in similar garb. Third, the massive columns of a massive building in Rome. Finally, the guards again- guarding the doors so that the regular folks can't get inside.

Any questions?

Another Bush Ally Skewered on the Bar-B-Que

Who has been counting them fall, one by one? Those Coalition of the Willing leaders who rushed to rescue George Bush from his blunder in Iraq have all gone down with the sinking, stinking ship. Today former 'staunch' Bush ally John Howard of Australia bit the dust. Several months ago Tony Blair, the poodle, bowed out altogether.

The original list consisted of these power-house nations: Afghanistan Albania Angola Australia Azerbaijan Bulgaria Colombia Costa Rica Czech Republic Denmark Dominican Republic El Salvador Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Georgia Honduras Hungary Iceland Italy Japan Kuwait Latvia Lithuania Macedonia Marshall Islands Micronesia Mongolia Netherlands Nicaragua Palau Panama Philippines Poland Portugal Romania Rwanda Singapore Slovakia Solomon Islands South Korea Spain Tonga Turkey Uganda Ukraine United Kingdom United States Uzbekistan.

Note the might forces of Tonga, Mongolia, Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Azerbaijan, Eritrea and Angola. The Mongols rode their horses there; the Tongans carried spears.

Spain left abruptly after a train bombing in Madrid; so did its president. Then the Spaniards demanded their troops return home; they did. Italy's Berlusconi tried to pull out shortly before elections but the people saw his political maneuvers booted him out for his support of Bush.

Here's an appropriate line from the Guardian on the day that Shock 'n Awe was launched:

"Eritrea is one of the poorest, most war-torn countries in the world. I call the embassy to ask how it intends to show its support of the US and coalition of the willing, of which it is a member? There is a long, stunned pause before the spokeswoman says: "Can you call back tomorrow morning?"

Early withdrawals in 2004 of 'coalition members' were Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Spain and the Tongan warriors and their spears. In 2005 the following went home: Portugal, The Netherlands and Ukraine. In 2006 Italy, Norway, Japan and Singapore sent their troops home. Lithuania went this year. Poland has been wanting to go home for the past two years but can't cut the cord yet.

Apparently Mongolia, Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Azerbaijan, Eritrea and Angola are still doing a good job and their presence is critically needed. So are the Macedonians, the Kuwaitis and the Rwandans. It's good to know that the naive governor still has friends in high places.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hole in Universe: Gateway to a New Universe?

Back in August of this year there was a story of a massive section of the universe that seemed to contain nothing. It said:

The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale. Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.

In October of this year, as reported on the NY Academy of Sciences website, a conference was held during which the topic, "Why Did The Universe Start In Such An Extraordinarly Ordered State?" The speaker was Laura Mersini-Houghton, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

She and her team believe that what could cause such a gaping hole "is the unmistakable imprint of another universe beyond the edge of our own."

Another universe, or, rather the other biverse. Interesting stuff, especially if folks cling to the biblical version of 'things' created.

Miasmic Vapors Drifting Across America

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Black poet Langston Hughes penned those words about the frustrations of black folks in America who never saw the opportunity to fully participate in the economic and civil benefits of this nation. Interestingly, he died one year before the famous, 'I Have a Dream' speech of Martin Luther King.

Miasma is considered to be a poisonous vapor or mist that is filled with particles from decomposed matter (miasmata) that could cause illnesses and is identifiable by its nasty, foul smell in the air. Before the age of the microscope, miasmic vapors were thought to cause wide-spread diseases like The Plague.

I first heard the term while watching a documentary on the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. Early pioneers trying to plow through the swamp were often struck down with malaria which they called 'ague.' They thought the swamp gases hovering just above the standing water in the mist were the so-called miasmic vapors, the cause of death. It was the mosquitoes of course, hanging in the vapors.

I wonder if, today, here in America, another miasmic layer has arisen, hanging low over the horizon across the land? Not as beautiful as the photo above, and mostly invisible, this layer of foul air is not necessarily the product of industry, the automobile, or swampland.

Rather it is the result of the war. That pre-emptive invasion, so heralded, so flag-driven, early in 2003, which now has turned into such a quagmire, a rotting cesspool of death and agony for the Iraqi people and our own U.S. troops.

Although many Americans confess that they pay little attention to this war [because less than 1% have any personal stake in it] surely they cannot completely dismiss that scene being played out 24/7 on the sands of the Arabian Desert. Few can escape the news snippets of another bombing, another IED, more lost Americans and dozens more Iraqis. It eats at our subconscious minds. It has to otherwise we would not be humans.

And so we eat and shop. And play mindless games. We sit before the tube hour upon hour soaking up the nonsense presented to us. As we watch, we eat and become more and more obese. More and more tuned out of reality. A drawing inward. Electronic devices of all sorts placate us, remove us from the real world out there.

Meanwhile the dollar shrinks not only overseas, but here as well. Debt leads to foreclosures and to bankruptcy. We live on the edge, pay check to paycheck. The ballooning of Cashland sites attests to our financial fragility. The lack of public demonstation against the war indicates our collective 'elephant in the living room' syndrome.

Has our 'dream' been totally deferred or is there a glimmer of hope yet remaining?

New Alphabet Soup: GOP, DNA and LCD

The GOP has already lost one of its planks for the '08 election when, a few days ago, scientists presented stem cell production from epithelial cells. So much for their arguments against embryonic stem cell procedures. No doubt the GOP presidential committee is scrambling to replace that issue in the 'talking points' memo for the candidates in the up-coming elections.

Now scientists have opened more doors and some fresh air into the origins of life- another all-GOP issue. It seems that DNA just lying in Petri dishes tend to join together to form liquid crystals. The DNA molecules pair to form DNA double helices, which, in turn stack end-to-end to make rod-shaped aggregates that orient parallel to one another.

An article about the discovery released yesterday on several science websites this morning says:

A team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Milan has discovered some unexpected forms of liquid crystals of ultrashort DNA molecules immersed in water, providing a new scenario for a key step in the emergence of life on Earth.

CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark said the team found that surprisingly short segments of DNA, life’s molecular carrier of genetic information, could assemble into several distinct liquid crystal phases that “self-orient” parallel to one another and stack into columns when placed in a water solution. Life is widely believed to have emerged as segments of DNA- or RNA-like molecules in a prebiotic “soup” solution of ancient organic molecules.

Of course, this is only a small step in the direction of life-formation, but nonetheless, it is the beginning of the downfall for the defiant myopic IDers and Creationists who dwell in the far-right murky shadows of the GOP.
At least they still have the rights on homophobia until the genetic link is found.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Toledo Mayor Signs Domestic Partnership Registry; Defies bishop

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner signed a law making Toledo the largest Ohio city to create a domestic-partner registry that allows same-sex couples a form of official recognition of their relationship. Toledo City Council overwhelmingly approved the measure last week.

The Bishop of Toledo tried to pressure the mayor into vetoing the measure by mandating the reading of his letter of disapproval to all Catholics in the diocese. In the letter, the bishop tried to frighten the citizens and the 'safety of the children' and 'traditional marriages' if the domestic partnership law were to be enacted. [see my previous post]

Bishop Blair's letter was a typical rant of homophobia, sounding much like the right-wing fundamentalist's scare tactics that they have been using in the political arena for many years. Luckily for Toledo, Mayor Finkbeiner did not fall for the malarkey the bishop was pandering. As a result, many couples in Toledo will be able to enjoy more financial benefits during their lives together.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ex-Press Sec. McClellan points finger at Bush, Cheney, Rove

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan names names in a caustic passage from a forthcoming memoir that accuses President Bush, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney of being "involved" in his giving the press false information about the CIA leak case.

“I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the seniormost aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan wrote. “There was one problem. It was not true.” McClellan then absolves himself and makes an inflammatory — and potentially lucrative for his publisher — charge. “I had unknowingly passed along false information,” McClellan wrote. “And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."


Gosh, who could have guessed this?

How's that for lying, fellow citizens? Has it risen to impeachable yet?

God Revving Up for '08 Race

Every 4 years God has to put creation on hold to participate in the American election scene. This year it's even a longer stint here on planet earth with these early entries and early primaries.

Luckily for us, that omnipotent trait serves us well down here as God will be able to continue spinning the universe and helping us elect the correct candidate to run our nation. George Bush was God's last selection as told to us through the voice of Mr. Bush himself.

I'm wondering, though, if that was just one more of those God jokes. Like the platypus. God does have a sense of humor as George Burns portrayed on the silver screen.

Seriously, though, God is back again ready to pander to the whims of the various presidential candidates; quite a long list this year. Naturally, to shorten this post, I ought just skip over to God's Party because, of course, this is where God operates and interacts.

How about that born-again fundamentalist Baptist preacher, Mike Huckabee! Surely God's providence has blessed this man to lead our nation in a righteous path. I'll bet that God had a hand in writing his newest TV commercial featuring tough-guy Chuck Norris. After all, God loves to smite the enemies of the righteous. Nothing as uplifting as Chuck Norris busting the jaw of a migrant Mexican to get that peasant on the right path.

Dare I mention the wonder-worker from Utah? Like the platypus, seems like God was in one of those silly moods as he guided Joseph Smith to the golden treasure in western New York state. That prophet whose name sounds like Italian pasta was hilarious in his cameo appearance. What a hoot. God surely is pleased, though, that the y-chromosome was so strong in this family, as God always prefers males heirs to women.

Rudy is the real star comic in this mini-series. God overlooked the three marriages because women, by nature, are often fickle and surely pretentious. Rudy should have called God for advice on that first woman and surely for the second. He has found God and NASCAR all in one fell swoop, which begs the question: which NASCAR would God drive?

Enter Darth Thompson. Serious stuff as can be seen on his stern face. The Right-to Lifers have already chosen him model their values, God sits on their Board so there no question about their righteousness. Fred uses the name of God on his website which is surely pleasing to the Almighty: "A healthy society is predicated on belief in God; respect for all life; strong families centered on the institution of marriage—the union of a man and a woman; and self-respect and tolerance of others." That marriage- union of man and woman- also pleases God because that other union is 'an abomination' to God and we would not want to 'abominate' God. After all, each time we eat seafood that lacks fins and scales we 'abominate' God as well.

God saved John McCain in Vietnam but can God save his presidential bid? Lucky for God, McCain wants to keep the Bush Crusade going in the lands of the infidel, a move sure to woo God's favor. John knows how God smote the enemies of the Israelites and is surely pleased to smite other enemies of God.

Well, God, I'm curious who you will 'select' to be the star of the GOP in the '08 election. Each man surely tugs at your heart. Thank God [pardon the pun] that these men have opened their hearts you and to our nation to lead us in same path as God's second-born son, George W. Bush.

Colin Powell Speaks Again of WMD's. Anybody Listening?

Unfortunately for him and for us, he cried 'wolf! wolf!' once too often as he sat in the United Nations giving his presentation on WMD's. A few years prior to that, in 2001, he spoke of Saddam not having WMD's. Yesterday he spoke of Iran not having WMD's. So, asks the American citizen: why bother opening your mouth, Mr. Powell? You just confuse us when you do.

ABC posted the story of Powell and Iran.

No doubt, right-wing pundants have already spun his story into the Dick Cheney version of the facts: 'We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.' Yet, naturally, those 30% of Americans who cling to George Bush will nod approvingly.

No doubt the anti-war folks will note that Powell's words of 2001 regarding Saddam's impotence were dismissed by him in a political about-face to satisfy the neocons advising the naive governor.

Sorry, Mr. Powell, what you have to say to the American people is worthless. Your once-proud reputation is dirt stained with American GI blood.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Conservative Toledo Catholic Bishop Condemns Gay Partnerships

A mandatory letter from Bishop Leonard Blair was read at all Toledo Catholic masses this weekend in which the bishop condemned Toledo -Lucas County for recognizing domestic partnerships. Toledo City Council has approved an ordinance making Toledo the first large city in Ohio to offer gay and other unmarried couples the opportunity to register their relationship with city hall. Under the ordinance approved late Tuesday, couples who cannot or don’t want to marry can register their “domestic partnership” with the clerk of city council.The purpose of the registry is to create a centralized process that employers can use to verify relationships when they offer benefits that typically are offered for spouses and dependents.

The naive bishop in an attempt to justify his stand on the issue tells Catholics that he wants to 'defend traditional marriages.' Odd, my wife and I have been married 40 years and have never been threatened by gay or lesbian partnerships. His remarks remind me of those hysterical bigots in the fundamentalist churches who vehemently condemn homosexuality every chance they get.

What a ludicrous stand this bishop is taking when Jesus preached forgiveness and love of neighbor. He reminds me so much of those narrow-minded right-wing Christians who hang around in the GOP, the ones who act as religious policemen for our nation.

I hope the folks sitting in the pews who were forced to listen to those hateful words will protest this letter in droves. Reducing or eliminating their weekly offering would send a sharp message to the man that Christians are welcoming and loving people, not stingy, exclusive bigots.

Oddly the bishop seems to have the children of the diocese in mind as he says, "Marriage is the basis of the family and the protective haven for children, who are the real key to future economic and social well-being for our community." Odd because the priests of this diocese have been quite active in their pedophilia of these same children. Naturally, the bishop covered it up and fought hard to successfully limit the showing of the film, Twist of Faith, in the diocese. That film documents the pedophilia of priests teaching at Central Catholic High School.

Additionally, the bishops of Ohio lobbied the Catholic members of the Ohio State Legislature last year to block a look-back law, a window that would have allowed prosecution of these priests past the traditional statutes of limitation.

Interesting also is the fact that just two weeks ago a defrocked priest of the diocese, accused of pedophilia, was given a priestly funeral, attended by 60 priests. He lay in state in his full clerical garb with a bishop presiding the mass of burial.

Don't tell me, Bishop Blair, that you are interested in a 'protective haven for children' while you bob, weave, and cover-up the pedophilia of your own priests. And further, you are apparently terribly ignorant if you believe that gay and lesbian partnerships lead to pedophilia.

To read the full letter, click here.

You may also want to read Archbishop Tutu's conversation with the BBC on homophobia here.

Noah's Ark Myth Linked to Global Warming

There was no angry God. There were no wicked people who were drowned. The righteous were not saved by God. The animals did not get aboard, two by two. Like all myths, exaggeration is key. Yet, when combined with religion, myths really soar to the absurd.

Today a paper was released that sheds new light on the Noah 'Flood.' The University of Exeter today released a paper called, 'Noah's Flood' Kick-started European Farming?" Rather than adding to the Ark myth, the paper notes: " because of the the impact of the collapse of the North American (Laurentide) Ice Sheet 8000 years ago, a catastrophic rise in global sea level led to the flooding of the Black Sea and drove dramatic social change across Europe."

The change that this flood of 34 years created was farming. "Archaeological evidence shows that communities in southeast Europe were already practising early farming techniques and pottery production before the Flood. With the catastrophic rise in water levels it appears they moved west, taking their culture into areas inhabited by hunter-gatherer communities."

Archaeologists estimated that nearly 73,000 square km of land was lost to the sea over a period of 34 years and displaced about 150,000 people living at the water's edge.

Odd how historical facts can get screwed up so badly by people hoping to use God as a tool of vengeance. The slowly rising sea levels story was twisted into a rather quick rainstorm of punishment, punishment sent by God to kill the 'unfaithful.'

The historic fact of rising sea levels that took a generation to fulfill maximum creep was passed on through word of mouth and, many generations later, was written down as God's wrath. Poor God.

God Bless the Senate Republicans

Mike Ferner, former Toledo City Councilman and mayoral candidate has written an op ed with the title above for BuzzFlash .

Ferner thanks the Republicans in the senate for killing the $50 billion for the Bush War which the Democrats were willing to give to Mr. Bush to prolong his war. Ferner believes that this war needs no more money at all.

Mr. Ferner belongs to Veterans for Peace and has been arrested for his anti-war efforts in the Toledo area.

Kucinich Protests Latin American Army Training School

Imagine this: the United States has a training school at Fort Benning Georgia that trains right-wing military groups who often fight against the duly elected rulers in Latin America. Fascist army training to topple left-leaning regimes. Paid for with your tax dollars.

Dennis Kucinich was the only presidential candidate willing to speak against this practice at the 18th annual protest of this military school, formerly named the School of the Americas. The Bush administration, in its usual clever moves, renamed it to the more innocuous Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Cute name for such a vile killing operation.

The website, School of the Americas Watch, leaps close tabs on this fascist military operation.

It is most interesting to note that the majority of the governments in Latin America are left-leaning. The governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela are all led by left-of-center presidents. Who doubts that the recent coup attempt in Venezuela of Chavez was orchestrated by 'graduates' of this school?

The sad and sordid history of right-wing dictators in Latin America was strongly supported by American business interests. The Chiquita Banana story is a classic example of American imperialism, murder and abject slavery.

Why is the news of the annual protest of the school not reported? Ask the media. How does fascism operate in America? It's first symptom is lack of information. The right-wing operating here in America hopes you don't notice. Of course, if your don't read it, you don't notice it. Simple.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Toledo Bishop's Homophobia Driving Catholics From the Church

I received several phone calls about the cruel homophobic decree that the Bishop of Toledo issued at all masses this weekend. Anger, disbelief, and disgust may well describe the feelings of Catholics who listened to this un-Christian proclamation.

I was told that a Catholic nun announced to the group after mass that she didn't believe she could continue to serve an intolerant church such as this. As she left she said that she didn't know if she could stay in the church any longer. A high school girl turned to her father and said to him, "I don't want to be part of this church." The father said to me, "She's right."

Folks were in tears at hearing this letter being read; some left during the reading. What has this diocese become under this narrow-minded, righteous and unwelcoming leader? It will surely drive many from the pews. Maybe that's what he wants: cleanse the church from the more liberal, more tolerant people and bring it back to the 'good old days.' The ask-no-questions good old days, the days of 'yes father.'

My wife and I were part of a discussion many years ago led by Fr. Bob Wilhelm, recently retired from the priesthood. He said to the assembled group some 25 years ago: I think the Catholic Church in America will split into two very different groups- one liberal and the other very conservative. He predicted this would happen in 20 or 30 years. His vision was sharp. The delineation has become clear, especially with this current bishop.

One could see the handwriting on the wall early on in his tenure when he replaced all of the women who were serving as associate pastoral leaders in the diocese. Men need serve these positions, not women. He has mandated other conservative features into the liturgy and the dress of the priests of the diocese. Piece by piece, he is turning this diocese to the conservative branch of Catholicism where he, himself, feels comfortable.

The treatment of the pastor of St. Rose in Perrysburg, Fr. Jim Leland, was nothing more than a power play on his part, asserting his hierarchal authority as a reminder to the priests of his power.

He will continue to act this way because he can, not because it serves the Catholics of the diocese. He wants to bring the sheep back to the fold, to the days of structure, authority and control. Sheeple, not people. He will lose many along the way, but he sees it as a cleansing, I'm sure.

The only thing that can stop the man is money. If enough people of the diocese withhold their weekly donations in protest of this most recent act, he will feel the pain. I hope he does, just like the pain his letter has caused to many, many Catholics.

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