Friday, April 14, 2006

In Hoc Signo Vinces

I'm taking a short, three-day break to restore my mind, body and soul. On the third day, I shall return, resurrected if you will with fresh thoughts and new ways of seeing things.

I chose this particular title to commemorate the fact that the Roman emperor Constantine had a vision before a battle (with Maxentius, I think) in which a cross appeared to him in the sky. After his victory, his conversion to Christianity was sealed. I use it to remind us all, both of the faith and those who believe in other systems of faith, that we can win this battle for America, for peace, for equality, for justice, and for the very soul of this nation.

It's easy to think, when you look around you, that this nation is ruled by a majority of morons who elect puppets of evil men, if not evil men themselves. It's easy to think, when you look around you, that most Americans would rather see rigid dogma replace enlightened thought. It's easy to think, when you look around you, that most Americans are more afraid of the marriage of Ed and Fred than they are of losing their jobs.

But that's simply not true. And it is on THAT ground that we can win. America has values. Hell, we have a goddam mission statement that lays them out, and that mission statement says nothing about who can or cannot marry, about how much taxes is the right amount, about whether a mother has the right to decide on the birth of her baby.

In fact, that statement, the most holy statement ever issued by men, specifically gives us the right to revolt and overthrow any government that abuses those rights! We will honor the spirit of this statement when we get these bastards out of office.

Happy Easter, and Happy Passover to you all. May God bless America, once again.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

He Has Accomplished What He Set Out To Do

Divided on Iran
Poll: Majority say they’d support action against nuclear targets but don’t trust Bush to lead a military strike

Newsday Washington Bureau

April 13, 2006

WASHINGTON -- As a growing chorus of former generals criticizes the Iraq war and fresh questions emerge over flawed intelligence, a new poll shows that nearly half the U.S. public supports a possible military strike to stop Iran's nuclear program but most don't trust President George W. Bush to lead it.

The Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll suggests many Americans are worried about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. At the same time, a majority doubted Bush's ability to make the right decision about whether to go to war with Iran -- a reflection of the public's growing lack of confidence in Bush's leadership in national security, once his strongest suit.[...]

Nearly half of all respondents -- 48 percent -- say they would support taking military action against Iran if it continues to produce material that can be used for nuclear weapons. But the country appeared divided on the issue, as four in 10 oppose it.

The poll of 1,357 respondents was taken from April 8 to April 11 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.
...which is to turn us into a bloodthirsty bunch of bullies.

See that "Recommended Reading" on the sidebar on the right? I recommended that series, the Foundation series, for a reason, in light of Iran: a country that achieves or attempts to achieve greatness through aggression is doomed to failure in the long run (or as Salvor Hardin said, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." A saying dear to my heart.)

Military action against Iran must be an absolute last resort, contingent ONLY upon the detonation of a nuclear bomb, clearly traced to Iran without subterfuge, on US soil. For no other reason should an American soldier unilaterally set foot on Iranian soil (except for humanitarian reasons, of course). As Hardin would also be wont to say, "A nuclear bomb is a good weapon, but it can explode both ways."

So how to solve this dilemma? Well, let's take a careful look at the situation. First among all our handicaps (as noted in the article I cited) is our lack of credibility. Any action taken against Iran, whether it is diplomatic or economic, must have the support of at least Russia or China (don't underestimate the importance of China in this.) We are seen as bullies, but worse, we are seen as ineffectual bullies who can only sweep in and sweep out, and leave behind a bigger mess than we found. That perception may not be popular here in America ("Why don't you talk about the GOOD things happening in Iraq? Wah! Wah!") but it happens to be the truth and denial will serve no purpose here.

Our asset in this case is fairly decent relations with Russia, and tenuous-yet-friendly relations with China. As they are deeply involved in our North Korean imbroglio, it will be tough to ask them to assist us with Iran, but I think that's vital, and I think they may welcome the break from talking to Kim, who I imagine taxes them as much as us.

Our other handicap is Israel, but it's also an asset. Obviously, Israel has a lot at stake in this situation, as Iran's first target for any nuke would likely be Jerusalem (thus wiping out two problems with one stroke: Jews and Palestinians, who are viewed with much distrust and dislike in the Muslim world.) Understandably, their rhetoric has been strident and aggressive.

We have to smooth over some of that, but I'm not sure silencing Israel serves the best purpose here. We could use them as a surrogate for our invasion talk, allow them to take the heat for it, while we work a masterful diplomatic solution.

OK...I was joking about that last bit, because in fact, this situation is way over the heads of the Bush administration, and it's their own fault. Stay out of Iraq and Iran isn't a problem. We picked on Iraq because it was the weakest member of the "Axis of Evil," which showed us to be both bullies AND cowards (as most bullies are). It will take a new administration to handle this mess.

Clinton showed that enforcing international sanctions and proclamations worked well against Saddam: he was unable to further develop weapons of mass destruction, and further, his army became weakened and disheartened.

I would think that same strategy would work against Iran, but it may be too late.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Protocols Of The Elders Of Republicanism

So I'm flipping channels on my dish last night, when I happen to catch a documentary called The Protocols of Zion. Rather provocative title, says I, having dissected the extremist mindset for many years now, and knowing precisely what this title refers to.

A précis on the film:
While rattling through the bustling streets of New York City in a yellow cab, filmmaker Marc Levin (SLAM) discovered the idea for his next film from an unlikely source. Striking up a conversation with his Egyptian taxi driver, Levin was unnerved when the conversation turned to the events of September 11, 2001. Angrily informing the filmmaker that he believed no Jews had died in the terrorist attacks on that day, the cabbie explained that they had all been warned of the event in advance so they could stay safely home. Levin subsequently turned to the 100-year-old book THE PROTOCOLS OF THE MEETINGS OF THE LEARNED ELDERS OF ZION, which was exposed as a forgery in the 1920s, but is still followed by a disconcertingly large number of anti-Semites across the globe.

After examining the book--which was furtively written by the Russian Secret Police, and was alleged to be the meeting minutes of a group of Jews who were hell-bent on world domination--Levin decided to explore some of the protocols in his film. Traveling across America with his father, Levin encounters various hate-filled figures, and attempts to understand their feelings toward Jews. His most entertaining, Michael Moore-like excursions take place in New York City, where he encounters people whose oddball behavior does a fine job of discrediting their views, and attends a discussion group about Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. However, these moments are tempered by some jaw-dropping footage of an Egyptian TV mini-series based on the PROTOCOLS book and the Malaysian prime minister paraphrasing from the pages in 2003. Creating a fascinating and worthwhile film, Levin sensibly discounts various crackpot theories, but makes it clear that many of the people who spread anti-Semitic feeling remain worryingly influential.
You'll agree, I'm sure, this deserve more than a five minute scan and a switch back to the Rangers' game (they lost, 3-2, the rat bastards...)

The film takes the "Protocols" and tries to divine what about them resonates with people who believe that jews run the world, the Congress, the Presidency, and are so powerful that they (and they alone) were responsible for the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks AND managed to pin it on Osama bin Laden.

Now, I cannot possibly in the short space of this blog do justice to the Protocols in terms of depth and detail, but as I watched this movie and as select protocols were read, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that they documented precisely the taking over of first the Republican party and then the United States by a fringe radical group of extremists (some of whom, coincidentally, are Jewish).

The Protocols are set up in twenty four chapters, each dealing with an aspect of world domination. For example, chapter one is entitled "The Basic Doctrine" and deals with the differences between "Them" and "Us", and how "We" can control "Them".
PROTOCOL No. 1: 3. It must be noted that men with bad instincts are more in number than the good, and therefore the best results in governing them are attained by violence and terrorisation, and not by academic discussions. Every man aims at power, everyone would like to become a dictator if only he could, and rare indeed are the men who would not be willing to sacrifice the welfare of all for the sake of securing their own welfare.[...]

6. Political freedom is an idea but not a fact. This idea one must know how to apply whenever it appears necessary with this bait of an idea to attract the masses of the people to one's party for the purpose of crushing another who is in authority. This task is rendered easier of the opponent has himself been infected with the idea of freedom, SO-CALLED LIBERALISM, and, for the sake of an idea, is willing to yield some of his power. It is precisely here that the triumph of our theory appears; the slackened reins of government are immediately, by the law of life, caught up and gathered together by a new hand, because the blind might of the nation cannot for one single day exist without guidance, and the new authority merely fits into the place of the old already weakened by liberalism.

7. In our day the power which has replaced that of the rulers who were liberal is the power of Gold. Time was when Faith ruled. The idea of freedom is impossible of realization because no one knows how to use it with moderation. It is enough to hand over a people to self-government for a certain length of time for that people to be turned into a disorganized mob. From that moment on we get internecine strife which soon develops into battles between classes, in the midst of which States burn down and their importance is reduced to that of a heap of ashes.
Sounds a bit familiar, don't it?
George W. Bush, quoted in Business Week, July 30, 2001, "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it...especially if I was the dictator"
The other protocols are as follows, each as extensive as the first:
Protocol I The Basic Doctrine
Protocol II Economic Wars
Protocol III Methods of Conquest
Protocol IV Materialism Replace Religion
Protocol V Despotism and Modern Progress
Protocol VI Take-Over Technique
Protocol VII World-Wide Wars
Protocol VIII Provisional Government
Protocol IX Re-education
Protocol X Preparing for Power
Protocol XI The Totalitarian State
Protocol XII Control of the Press
Protoco XIII Distractions
Protocol XIV Assault on Religion
Protocol XV Ruthless Suppression
Protocol XVI Brainwashing
Protocol XVII Abuse of Authority
Protocol XVIII Arrest of Opponents
Protocol XIX Rulers and People
Protocol XX Financial Programme
Protocol XXI Loans and Credit
Protocol XXII Power of Gold
Protocol XXIII Instilling Obedience
Protocol XXIV Qualities of the Ruler
Eerie, isn't it? I could spend months examining each of the protocols and the subparagraphs and drawing parallels to the neo-con rise to power (as assisted by the Christian right). For example, choosing strictly at random, this is from Protocol #23, "Instilling Obedience"
1. That the peoples may become accustomed to obedience it is necessary to inculcate lessons of humility and therefore to reduce the production of articles of luxury. By this we shall improve morals which have been debased by emulation in the sphere of luxury. We shall reestablish small master production which will mean laying a mine under the private capital of manufactures. This is indispensable also for the reason that manufacturers on the grand scale often move, though not always consciously, the thoughts of the masses in directions against the government. A people of small masters knows nothing of unemployment and this binds him closely with existing order, and consequently with the firmness of authority. For us its part will have been played out the moment authority is transferred into our hands. Drunkenness also will be prohibited by law and punishable as a crime against humanness of man who is turned into a brute under the influence of alcohol.
So by attempting to rid the country of illegal immigrants, as an example, the Republicans are trying to drag down the standard of living for the rest of us-- after all, capitalists will not raise their wages to living wages and harm their profits, so the only other alternative is to lower employees' expectations.

But the most chilling of the Protocols as it applies to George W. Bush? From Chapter 24, "Qualities of the Ruler":
5. Direct heirs will often be set aside from ascending the throne if in their time of training they exhibit frivolity, softness and other qualities that are the ruin of authority, which render them incapable of governing and in themselves dangerous for kingly office.

6. Only those who are unconditionally capable for firm, even if it be to cruelty, direct rule will receive the reins of rule from our learned elders.
Bush's strength is also his weakness - he's an unmovable rock

A note: Crackpot conspiracy theory espousal surrounding the events of 9/11 in the comments will be quickly deleted. This story is NOT about 9/11.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car...

...if you can afford the gas, of course...
Gas pump price pressure

Newsday Staff Writer

April 11, 2006

Driving is the most expensive it's been since the fall as drivers and experts alike wonder how high gasoline prices will march.

High crude oil costs and a near-perfect storm of other factors have prices rising particularly steeply this spring -- by 37 cents a gallon in the past month compared with about 20 cents a year ago -- when warm weather brings motorists out of hibernation.

[...]"We will see or we will have seen $3-a-gallon gas in every state by Memorial Day," said Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover, an energy risk management company in New Canaan, Conn. "Some of the cheap places will escape it, but you guys [on Long Island] have high prices."

Yesterday's Long Island average for regular unleaded, $2.855 a gallon in the AAA's daily survey of stations, was the highest since Oct. 18. Although that was still well short of the record $3.347 a gallon set last Sept. 11 after Hurricane Katrina disrupted petroleum operations in the Gulf of Mexico, nobody could rule out seeing that again this year.
Thank you, Captain Obvious!

Look, anyone who's driven a car for any length of time knows that prices jack up twice a year: in May, and in October when the MTBE formulae are released for lower emissions. Does it surprise anyone that, like global warming forcing the seasons, people are driving more earlier in the season as the weather turns nicer earlier?

Now add to this the unrest in Nigeria, the uncertainty over Iran-American relations, and in particular how this immature bunch of redneck cowboys is going to behave over the next few months, and you can see why gas is jumping like a cricket on a hot stove.

The OPEC oil strategy is working to a T. The US energy remember we have one, right? Cooked up in a back room with lobbyists and Dick Cheney, with George Bush's blessing?...The US energy policy has been shown to be flawed and basically relies on one thing: praying ANWR has enough oil to tide us through until we can pump oil out of Iraq (and maybe now Iran).


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Monday, April 10, 2006

Suing For A Right They Already Have

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue

By Stephanie Simon
Times Staff Writer

April 10, 2006

ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.
Look, maybe I'm wrong, but isn't this truly a frivolous lawsuit?

No one is telling Ms. Malhotra that she can't speak out against homosexuality. What they ARE saying is that such opinions cannot be worded in a way that inflicts harm on other people. The very essence of the public square (to use a hackneyed phrase) is to promote tolerance while respecting the rights of people to form and have their own opinions. The whole point behind the politically correct movement is that people were terrorized in the past for being "different" from you and me: black, gay, Buddhist, poor.

Complaints seem to focus on a handful of activities that have caused "Christians" to be punished for their outrages, including wearing anti-gay T shirts, denouncing Gay Pride Month, and refusing to attend diversity training.

Yah, hullo? If your boss requires you to attend diversity training, then you go. Since this is an "at will" country in terms of employment, that's a firable offense, refusing to go, no matter what the underlying reason. Similarly, I don't see too many gay men or lesbians wearing "Straights Suck, Only Not In A Fun Way" T-shirts, nor do I see too many gay publications talking about the shame of living eleven months out the year watching straight couples necking in the park.

Still, let's give ol' Ruth here her say. What is she suing for?
In their lawsuit against Georgia Tech, Malhotra and her co-plaintiff, a devout Jewish student named Orit Sklar, request unspecified damages. But they say their main goal is to force the university to be more tolerant of religious viewpoints. The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on religious liberty cases.

Malhotra said she had been reprimanded by college deans several times in the last few years for expressing conservative religious and political views. When she protested a campus production of "The Vagina Monologues" with a display condemning feminism, the administration asked her to paint over part of it.

She caused another stir with a letter to the gay activists who organized an event known as Coming Out Week in the fall of 2004. Malhotra sent the letter on behalf of the Georgia Tech College Republicans, which she chairs; she said several members of the executive board helped write it.

The letter referred to the campus gay rights group Pride Alliance as a "sex club … that can't even manage to be tasteful." It went on to say that it was "ludicrous" for Georgia Tech to help fund the Pride Alliance.

The letter berated students who come out publicly as gay, saying they subject others on campus to "a constant barrage of homosexuality."

"If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda," the letter said.
What's next, Ruth, "Jews are Jesus killers"? Sounds to me like Ruth stuck her hand too far into the cookie jar and had it smacked.

Memo To Ruth: You already have the right to be a dick, and it sounds as if you are exercising it.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

Two millennia ago, my Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, rode into Jerusalem on the Hosannas of the Jews there. Garments were rent and placed on the ground, along with palm fronds, in a signal honor to Jesus. Mind you, this was a political statement, the one and only political statement Jesus was ever to make.

A political statement. If you recall, it was during the following week that He went to the temple and overturned the moneychangers' tables. After this, the Sanhedrin had determined that Jesus was to be a bigger problem than they feared ("Messiahs" were a dime a dozen in those days) and had him arrested and tried for the blasphemy of claiming to be the Son of God (Mark 14, in particular verses 61-62).

His fate was sealed before he even rode into Jerusalem, for this was a conscious decision on His part to reveal His true self and to take on the powers that be, the corruption and degradation of the church, and those who permitted it and the Romans who encouraged it. All this, knowing full well He would die for this and with His death, redeem those who believe in Him.

If you believe that, of course.

I say "my Christ" to distinguish Him from the Christ that is so easy to mock, the one the Religious Right carries around on a false banner of purity, a band aid that does not cover their sucking wounds of blasphemy. It's interesting that Christ's most memorable words, his speeches and allegories, deal with poverty and humility, tolerance and peace, while the "Christian" Coalition can only use His words to warp love and diminish peace.

Sadly, I get lumped in with them by those whose fear of the unknown forces them to mock the possibilities that the greatness we've seen around us, the beauty of life and the sanctity of the planet and the universe, could be a creation. Yes, believing in a God is a cop-out, I can see that point, but I can also look at a painting by Da Vinci, or Michelangelo, and see God's work. Religion inspires war. God inspires art. And music. And writing.

It is this relationship that made me realize that the problem isn't with God, it's with man. Jesus' teachings are pretty clear: be nice to other people, shun the material in life for the spiritual, and through your faith in Him and the Father, you can claim heaven. He says nothing about judging other people or banning gay marriage, or supporting an illegal war (one can only imagine how He rolls his eyes on that one.)

Meanwhile, the blasphemers preach from their crystal churches and multimillion dollar pulpits with the webcams and the large screens for those in the back, and talk about humility as if it is something to be denigrated, to be mocked, all the while they force the flock to vote like sheep for this candidate or the other and speak of eternal damnation for those who rebel.

The moneychangers have returned, and churches are no longer for praying, but for propaganda. The Antichrist does appear to be among us, but oddly, these folks seem to be assisting him.

My Christ, the Christ that rode an ass into Jerusalem, informed my life. He taught me that strength doesn't have to come from war, but that peace holds more strength than war ever could. There is more power in love than in hate. Hate eventually wears itself out, taking with it the hater. Love can only strengthen us. Peace can only strengthen us. The blasphemers would weaken us with fear and anger. We must instill peace back to people. Show them the love that Christ teaches us exists through Him, but through the world as well.

So...What does this all have to do with a blog that's basically a snarky political blog?

It's about values. Moral values. My Christ's values.

I wish we could see a Democrat ride in to "Jerusalem" and clear the moneychangers out. To remind people that America is greatest not when we are selfish and self-indulgent, but when we share and give to the least among us.

Think about it: the entire country has done better with taxes that were much higher than they are now. "Give unto Caesar"...This is not merely a spiritual call to arms, but it's simple, practical economics. Taxes create wealth for all, which means that those paying more taxes end up earning more than they do when taxes are low and jobs and employment is scarce.

Or to remind America that what our neighbors do in the privacy of their home is their business, because what we do in our own is ours. And who cares if what we're doing is "moral" and what they're doing might not pass our judgment: that's NOT our decision to make. Only Jesus can judge what any of us do. And yes, that includes two men or two women, and yes, that includes the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy, for whatever reason under carefully established medical guidelines. Maybe partial birth abortions wouldn't be such a big issue if we didn't terrorize women about being pregnant in the first place. Jesus wouldn't do it, and we sure as hell shouldn't.

Or to remind America that national security really only comes when you respect the rights and sovereignty of other nations and don't try to impose our values and mores onto others.

Education should be a right, because through education, particularly science, we advance Jesus' work and make it truly our own. We don't have to fear knowledge. He gave us a brain, and we must use it for more than finding loopholes for our rich cronies in the Ten Commandments.

Healthcare should be a right, because as the poorest among us deserves that care as much as the richest. And hey, if that means having a nationalized health care program that the government pays for, well, maybe it's about time! Every other civilized nation has it and prima facie evidence indicates that our mortality rates suck compared to those nations. Jesus demands that we see to the least among us. Jesus would be pissed to see what's happened in America.

Remind America that God gave us this planet to shepherd, to care for, and that by allowing the Republicans to roll back the baby step environmental laws we established during the 70s and under Clinton is to turn our backs on Him and His Son.

Finally, remind Americans that leaders will lie to us, but we can hold them accountable for those lies. There's a system and that Dems, when confronted with the most ludicrous challenge to the actions of a leader, allowed the process to go forward, and didn't try to pervert the law of the land, based on His law, in order to protect our power. We put our faith in the intelligence of the people and the Lord's hands and guess what? We found out he was innocent!

If we only had a Dem to ride into "Jersusalem"...but sadly, I don't see one.

So maybe it's time you and I got on the donkey and did it ourselves...after all, isn't that What Jesus Would Do?

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