Friday, March 20, 2009

The French Riot; the Americans Lick Their Wounds

News item:

A riot and clashes with police turned the Paris artistic Montmartre quarter into mayhem Wednesday night.

The protests began as thousands of college students gathered near the Sorbonne university, AFP reports. The student rally turned into chaos involving some 150,000 individuals. The demonstrators have clashed with police, supermarket windows and those of two banks were broken.

The reasons for the student's protest Tuesday night remain unclear. Just a day earlier 200,000 of them blocked the Paris Institute of Political Studies in sign of protest against the inequalities in France's secondary education.

Here in America, a few dozen march with signs in front of AGI headquarters in New York. The rest of us sit home, licking our wounds, as our 401K's zero out. Are the French hotheads or are we pussies?

Here in America, we sit with our TV remote in hand, listening to pundits squawk about the economic 'crisis' as we choose our set of bandits and good guys, bowl of popcorn in the other hand.

We have been the victims of a massive gang rape resulting in loss of job, house, savings, and future dreams.  But where are the people in the streets?  The street corners are as empty as the stores and shops behind them.

Apparently we would rather watch it all play out on our television sets as if it were some sports  series.Perhaps, at least, we could make some small pendant and tape it to a shishkabob skewer and wave it from time to time as we watch the 'reality show' play out on our TV screens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Witch Hunt in Senegal- Call Up the Puritans!

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(CNN) -- Around 1,000 people accused of being witches in Gambia have been locked up in secret detention centers and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion, according to human rights organization Amnesty International.

Amnesty claims Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, pictured in 2006, invited "witch doctors" to the West African nation.

Amnesty claims Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, pictured in 2006, invited "witch doctors" to the West African nation.

At least two people have died after drinking the liquid while many more have suffered serious kidney problems. Others suffered injuries as a result of being severely beaten, Amnesty said Wednesday as it called on authorities to "put an immediate stop to the witch-hunting campaign."

So, belief in witches still goes on in the consciousness of humans. Bad 'spirits' roaming the earth, inhabiting the bodies of people. Evil people. Unseen beings zooming here, there and everywhere!

Gosh, seems that the people of Senegal are back in the Dark ages with all of that hocus-pocus stuff. Reminds me of the Salem Witch Hunts here in the colonies 300 years ago. Our homegrown Puritans, thankfully, killed-off the American witches. It was great to have those church magistrates in the Massachussets Colony rid out nation of those evil people.

As a point of historical reference, we recall that the Puritans believed in the existence of an invisible world inhabited by God and the angels, including the Devil, who was seen as a fallen angel, and his fellow demons. To Puritans, this invisible world was as real as the visible one around them. Therefore, these Godly people were able to ferret out the evil spirits and separate them from the good spirits.

What ever happened to these oh-so holy Puritans? What if, just speculating here, not all of the evil spirits back then were done in? What if a few of them escaped, jumped out of the bodies of those evil witches just before the hanging? Escaped to haunt America! To live again in the bodies of godless men and women in our nation today!

Oh the fear, the fright, the agony to imagine that once again, we may have to summon the oh-so holy Puritans once again to perform their magic and rid this nation of the evil witches. The thought of evil spirits all across this nation depresses the hell out of me. Where are they? Whose bodies have they inhabited? Are these godless people living in my town, my neighborhood?

Where are today's Puritans? Surely there must be a few of them scattered somewhere in America. If you know of any, please let me know so that we can organize a 21st century witch hunt. This evil must be stopped once and for all! God bless America.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Was slavery not a sin if the owner treats his slaves humanely?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Was slavery not a sin if the owner treats his slaves humanely? Does God fart? Deep theological questions all.

Last Sunday, the prescribed Catholic Church readings for mass were Scripture passages that mentioned slavery. "Be nice to your slaves" is essentially the core message. Apparently people in those days weren't bright enough to figure out that slavery itself was immoral, even 'sinful.' It is amazing to us, some 20 to 30 centuries later, that a slave system was a culturally acceptable situation. That Golden Rule thing need not apply to slavery.

Ephesians 6 "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."

Colossians 4:1: "Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."

Matthew 18:25: "But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."

1 Timothy 6: "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed."

Paul's Letter to Philemon is odd. While in prison, he met a runaway slave, Onesimus, the slave of a Christian. He was owned by Pheliemon. Rather than give the slave sanctuary, he returned him to his owner.

Why did not Jesus speak against the institution of slavery? Why did he assume that slavery was the natural law? Did he not wish to offend slave owners? Or was he so much a part of the culture of the times that the concept did not seem to be worthy of discussion?

Fast forward to the American colonies in the 1700's. Slavery was practiced throughout the colonies in this 'Christian' land. White slave owners were righteous, Bible-thumping Christians who bellowed out Christian hymns on Sunday and whipped their slaves on Monday. In fact, these white Christian slave owners were forced to fight a war against the 'wicked' Unitarian Yankees and Bible-hating abolitionists.

So, the question becomes this: how do Bible-thumping evangelicals [Calvinists] spin the slavery thing so deeply written in both our American history and scripture passages?

The Late Unpleasantness in Idaho: Southern Slavery and the Culture Wars
gives a clue. William L. Ramsey, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Idaho, wrote the essay which is found on George Mason University's History News Network site. Here is a portion of the article:

The so-called “culture wars,” though maddeningly difficult to define, have begun to set previously complacent Americans against one another in unexpected ways and to challenge some of the basic goals and assumptions of late twentieth-century U. S. social policy. Critics on the right have stepped up attacks on multiculturalism, “political correctness,” and even on the general framework of “secular humanism” that has guided much of western thought since the Enlightenment. In many cases, these critics propose the adoption of a “Biblical worldview” as the only viable solution to America’s cultural and social problems. Different “worldviews,” they argue, lead people to see the same events in a very different light. But can such a shift in “worldview” lead rational adults to praise the institution of slavery as it existed in the antebellum South? And when professional historians point out that the experience of slavery was not generally a happy one for African Americans, are they merely blinded by “abolitionist propaganda” and knee-jerk liberalism?

Such questions brought the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho, to the brink of open hostility during the past year. Previously friendly neighbors perfected outrageously inventive insults for one another and in some cases cut off communication altogether. Boycotts were threatened, Christmas lights pulled down, safes allegedly stolen, tires slashed, and soda cans thrown at “nigger lover” professors. At the center of the furor is a small thirty-nine page booklet entitled Southern Slavery: As It Was, co-authored by local pastor Douglas Wilson and League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins, on the one hand, and an even shorter book review of it, on the other hand, by two University of Idaho history professors entitled Southern Slavery As It Wasn’t: Professional Historians Respond to Neo-Confederate Misinformation.

Wilson’s and Wilkins’ booklet, published by Wilson’s “Canon Press” in Moscow, argues that southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks. Wilson and Wilkins are quite specific about the many benefits of slavery for African-Americans, and they conclude that southern slaves genuinely appreciated those benefits and supported the system that provided them. As such, they claim that “slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War [the Civil War] or since.” (p. 38). Their praise of the institution is almost unbounded in places. “There has never been,” they argue, “a multi-racial society that has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world.” (p. 24). They repeatedly deride the consensus view of slavery that has emerged over the last fifty years of academic scholarship as “abolitionist propaganda” and “civil rights propaganda.” Most of the modern problems confronting the United States, they feel, are the logical result of the theological heresies implicit in the abolitionist movement and its unfortunate victory over the South in the Civil War.

So, apparently 'southern slavery was not only sanctioned by the Bible but, thanks to the patriarchal kindness of their wise evangelical masters, a positive, happy, and pleasant experience for the majority of southern blacks.'  A pleasant experience, like going to Disnyland.  Those darkies should have 'preciated what Christian white folks did for them.  The ungrates!  Today, of course, 'they' are mostly all on welfare when they could have been happy little niggers working for a living on the plantations.

Ramsey continues his article:

In addition to marking out skirmish lines, the controversy made it clear that Douglas Wilson was more than just a local troublemaker and southern partisan. He had established two “Reformed” evangelical churches in town whose congregations, thanks to nationwide recruitment efforts, now represented 10 percent of Moscow’s entire population. He had founded a k-12 school called “Logos” that taught history from a “Biblical Worldview” and an unaccredited college called “New Saint Andrews,” where he had installed himself as “Senior Fellow of Theology.” Other faculty members at the college included Wilson’s son Nate, his brother Gordon, and son-in-law Ben. Wilson, it turned out, had cultivated an empire of “classical” schools based on a biblical worldview that included over 165 private academies around the country, all of which purchased educational materials published by his personal “Canon Press” in Moscow, Idaho, or affiliated “Veritas Press” in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

 His empire of private academies paled, however, in comparison to his real passion for home-schooling. Wilson’s view of slavery currently services thousands of home-school families around the country with materials published by Canon and Veritas Presses.

Information about Wilson’s ninth annual “history conference” in February 2004 turned out to be the final straw for many residents. Wilson had scheduled himself as the keynote speaker, praising the southern racist ideologue R.L. Dabney, but he had also scheduled as co-speakers white supremacist League of the South co-founder Steve Wilkins and the anti-gay Tennessee minister George Grant, notorious for advocating the extermination of all homosexuals in his book Legislating Immorality.

University of Idaho students were especially outraged that the conference was surreptitiously scheduled to take place on their own campus in the Student Union Building. Wilson had apparently paid good money for the facility well in advance, and nobody had balked at taking it. Student anger, however, ultimately forced the president and provost of the University to issue a joint disclaimer of the event, which tried retroactively to take the moral high ground by denouncing efforts to “recast or minimize the evils of slavery.”

Apparently, not all is well in a place called Moscow.  It seems that one of the rising stars of Time Magazine's feature, The New Calvinism, pastor Douglas Wilson, has some explaining to do.  I'm sure that he 'explains' things quite well and spins himself so as to be simply 'misquoted' or 'misinterpreted,' whatever seems to work for him. 

The 'believers' will coo and coddle him and denounce any who would be brazen enough to question what the hell he said. To me, however, he's just one more screwed-up theist, bamboozling the faithful.

[for an interesting history of Douglas Wilson, read Taliban on the Palouse]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The New Calvinism

Time Magazine this week trumpets a list of "10 Ideas Changing the World Now." I heard the author on NPR and found the article online. The 10 are:

Jobs Are the New Assets
Recycling the Suburbs
The New Calvinism
Reinstating The Interstate
Africa: Open for Business
The Rent-a-Country
Survival Stores
Ecological Intelligence

The Calvinism article struck a nerve with me and so I read that first.  On first glance it seemed to be out of place for 'changing the world.'  The article begins:

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin's 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism's buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism's latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination's logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time's dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected b
y any subsequent human action or decision.

Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don't operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, "everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world" — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle's pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom's hottest links.

OK, that's all nice and interesting, but what the hell does this have to do with 'changing the world'?  The author offers no answer.  Rather he talks about the Baptists and these neo-Calvinists battling with each other over 'righteousness.'

Who cares?  The latest polling on religion in America indicates that, at last, fewer Americans are 'believers' than ever before. So why would 'new Calvinism' be relevant to the world, let alone to America?  It escapes me.

The concluding paragraph:

Calvin's 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin's latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country's infancy.

Searching for security in the church?  Is that what this implies?  That Americans suffering from this economic mess will turn to bible classes and sing The Old Rugged Cross and them, magically, their problems will go away?  Snake oil, for sure.

Rather, what I see happening is what NBC's Nightly News has been featuring for the past 2 weeks- good old fashioned empathy-the Golden Rule.  Neighbors reaching out to help their fellow citizens with food, clothes, tutoring, transportation and other ways of giving back to those who are in need at this time in their lives.  Businesses offering free or reduced cost for services, employers hiring some extra workers to keep people off the unemployment rolls.

Empathy is hardwired in our brains and we care for one another, not because some deity will be pleased or angered, but because it is the right thing to do.  Hardwired from birth to want to help a fellow human, especially one who is in dire straits.  Hopefully, this will spread all across America like wildfire.  Not an old rugged cross, but rugged neighborly kindness.

Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls 'Authors' Never Existed

Biblical scholars have long argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic and celibate Jewish community known as the Essenes, which flourished in the 1st century A.D. in the scorching desert canyons near the Dead Sea. Now a prominent Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, disputes that the Essenes ever existed at all — a claim that has shaken the bedrock of biblical scholarship.

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries. As Elior explains, the Essenes make no mention of themselves in the 900 scrolls found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in the caves of Qumran, near the Dead Sea. "Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend." 

Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds, "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue."


Whoa!  Won't this bit of news tie knots in the panties of some of our more religious folks.  Holy cow!  Forgery and fraud apparently is endemic in the  soul of humans.

Alien Bacteria Found Orbiting Earth

They came from Outer Space and have been orbiting the earth watching us for perhaps hundreds if not millions of years!  Brings me back to the drive-in movies of the 50's. Yet, it is eerie to think that some heretofore unknown life has been found in our stratosphere.

The India Space Research Organisation reported yesterday:

Three new species of bacteria, which are not found on Earth and which are highly resistant to ultra-violet radiation, have been discovered in the upper stratosphere by Indian scientists. The experiment was conducted using a 26.7 million cubic feet balloon carrying a 459 kg scientific payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid Neon, which was flown from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad, operated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on 16S RNA gene sequence, showed greater than 98% similarity with reported known species on earth. Three bacterial colonies, namely, PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22 were, however, totally new species. All the three newly identified species had significantly higher UV resistance compared to their nearest phylogenetic neighbour.

There you go! Three extra-terrestrial colonies orbiting and watching us from on high! Seriously though, if 18 life-forms are in orbit around earth, who cannot conclude that they and WE came from Outer Space? I wonder if their names were Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dopey Toledo Mayor Chooses Marina Over Police

The goofy mayor of Toledo, Carleton S. Finkbeiner, often the butt of his own foolish remarks, has chosen to lay off 75 police officers to stem the multi-million dollar budget deficit rather than to delay his pet marina project.

The Blade says,

Despite Toledo's mounting deficit and skyrocketing jobless rate, plus the declining retail market nationwide, city leaders refuse to give up on their most heralded and longest-awaited project: a mix of restaurant, retail, and residential development at the planned Marina District on the east side.

Even with a city deficit of at least $15 million that's forcing him to lay off 75 police officers, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner soon could ask City Council to approve $2.5 million in general obligation bonds to help fund the marina development.

The hapless, aging mayor realizes that this may be his legacy- a boat marina named Finkbeiner- so that the citizens of Toledo will be able to remember him. Remember him? Current citizens of Toledo try to forget that he is their mayor.

Foot-in-mouth comments along with a combative, I-know-best personality has already doomed the man called 'Carty' to the dustbin of political history. Who would want a memorial to the man who, among many other idiotic statements, once suggested that the deaf move to housing near the airport?

Police protection vs. a marina seems to be a no-brainer, which is precisely why the pathetic mayor clings to it. Here's the most scary part: he may run for re-election!

CNN Poll Relegates GOP to Trivial Status But Wait, There's More

The current junta that strangles the Republican Party hopes that cultural and wedge issues entice citizens to support their free-market economy philosophy again, the same philosophy that nearly sank our Ship of State.  They hope that enough Americans will be suckered into their ranks over trivial cultural issues so that they can maintain their failed economic policies.

A new CNN poll suggests that American citizens are abandoning these GOP wedge issues fast.  Thirty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday morning said unemployment is the most important economic issue facing the country today, almost three times higher than the 13 percent who felt the same way last April. Inflation is second at 20 percent, followed by the mortgage crisis at 16 percent, the stock market at 14 percent and taxes at 11 percent.

Taxes at the bottom. The trump card of the GOP worthless now. Apparently, the GOP speech writes will have to remove that red herring from the list because Americans don't seem to give a damn about that issue right now.

The poll also indicates the economy remains the most important issue facing the country today. Sixty-three percent said the economy is their top concern, with health care a distant second at 9 percent. The federal budget deficit follows at 8 percent, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at 6 percent, education and terrorism tied at 5 percent, and energy policy at 2 percent.

Not only do the Republicans lose the tax card, but they also lose the war, terrorism, and the federal budget aces. Not a single ace left up the Republican sleeve. No wonder the party is in such disarray.

Don't mourn for the party yet. They are working very hard, overtime these days, to regain their stranglehold on this nation. Their lust for power and easy money is incessant and they will not go gently into the night.

As my previous post on the Weimar Republic suggests, the party out of power can make a sudden and masterful comeback. Rush Limbaugh has already begun the offensive move by declaring his intention of taking down the ruling party. This section from the Weimar post is especially important to recall:

It was at this time that the right wing made its crucial decision. Despite its shocking, naked failure over the prior decade, despite the horrific devastation it had wrought on the German people, despite the discrediting of everything they had purported to stand for, they would fight [the new leader], his new government, and its plans for recovery. They would do everything they could to make sure that the new government failed.

Sound like Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Beck, and others on the far-right of the GOP? "In their hearts, every Republican wants Obama to fail" is essentially true and a call to arms.

The article makes this familiar statement about German politics after World War !:

Contrition for their abject failure, humility for their destructive hubris, compassion for their crippled country-those had nothing to do with it. All they possessed was a blinding, visceral hatred of the left and a masturbatory lust for the return to power.

Sound familiar? It couldn't happen here, though could it? No, not here in this nation. That's what many Germans thought. But it did happen there with the result that a little known political figure from the oddly-named National Socialist Party became the leader and dictator of Germany.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The US Is Facing a Weimar Moment

Here is an excellent comparison of what happened politically in Germany after WWI and what may happen here in America following  Bush and the right-wing Republicans.  The author, Robert Freeman, warns us that we may suffer the same outcome as the Germans if the right-wing Republicans here do what the right-wingers in Germany did to that country. The comparisons are frightfully similar. Let's hope the outcome is different.

Hyperbaric/Oxygen Rich Treatment for Children with Autism

An article at Biomed Central states that several uncontrolled studies of hyperbaric treatment in children with autism have reported clinical improvements. Sixty-two children with autism recruited from 6 centers, ages 2-7 years were randomly assigned to 40 hourly treatments of either hyperbaric treatment at 1.3 atmosphere (atm) and 24% oxygen or slightly pressurized room air at 1.03 atm and 21% oxygen.

After 40 sessions, mean physician CGI scores significantly improved in the treatment group compared to controls in overall functioning, receptive language, social interaction, and eye contact); 9/30 children (30%) in the treatment group were rated as "very much improved" or "much improved" compared to 2/26 (8%) of controls; 24/30 (80%) in the treatment group improved compared to 10/26 (38%) of controls.

The conclusions reached through this preliminary study are that children with autism who received hyperbaric treatment at 1.3 atm and 24% oxygen for 40 hourly sessions had significant improvements in overall functioning, receptive language, social interaction, eye contact, and sensory/cognitive awareness compared to children who received slightly pressurized room air.

A slight increase in air pressure and a small increase in oxygen improved the performance of these children. Amazing outcome. Any hope for improving the lives of the autistic child and their parents is welcome news.

My Right-wing Brother-in-Law Quiet These Days

Often on this blog, I refer to my right-wing brother-in-law in order to get the 'message' from that dark corner of the political spectrum. He gets his 'news' and 'information' from the usual sources, mostly talk radio. We met on Friday for dinner- the first time since the Inauguration- and I wondered what the spin on the Obama presidency would be.

I was amazed at his silence. Dumbfounded, in fact. Not one discouraging word. Nada. It was an eye-opener, for sure.

He used to be a Democrat, like his father and forever back, but in the late 90's he moved far-right. We used to dread dinners together because of the usual right-wing blather that, like a good dittohead, he would utter. Not this time, though. Amazing.

Today, Frank Rich of the NYT penned an OpEd titled, The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off My brother-in-law enjoyed the culture wars, peppering his pronouncements with many 'them' and 'those people' references. Seems 'they' were always stealing his money or messing up his life. On Friday, 'they' apparently disappeared.

His life-savings has all but disappeared from his portfolio. He has no pension and lives on his Social Security [socialism!] check and dividends from his portfolio. Well, not that any longer.

I believe that he has finally it figured out: he has been hoodwinked, bamboozled by the right, election after election, and voted 'culture war' issues rather than his wallet. The chickens didn't come home to roost.

Rich says,

"What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford."

It's the economy, stupid! My wife's brother is finally 'getting it.'

Dick Speaks Today- Get the Arrest Warrant

Dick "Dick" Cheney will appear live today on CNN for an interview with John King. What more can we learn about this psychopathic liar that we didn't already know? Who wants to hear his 'version' of history or his 'ideas' on how to get us out of the hold that he and his sidekick dug for us?

Marshals from the World Court in The Hague ought to be waiting at the doors of the studio to serve him his arrest warrant for crimes against humanity. Like Madoff, it would be a pleasure to see this criminal be cuffed and whisked off to an anonymous country for a little 'rendition.' I'll bet he's squeal like a stuck pig.

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