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Posts Tagged ‘JESUS CHRIST’

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2018 at 12:03 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

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Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2018 at 12:23 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Bernardo Gui

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud January 2007.jpg

Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

THE ULTIMATE NEW YEAR’S EVE

In Business, History, Social commentary on January 2, 2018 at 12:06 am

New Year’s Eve, 2017, now lies behind us.

But for those who consciously lived through December 31, 1999, there will never be another New Year’s Eve like it.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for people to reflect on the major events of the previous 12 months. Some of these are highly personal. Others have been shared by the entire country.

Some of these remembrances inevitably bring pleasure. Others bring pain.

But at the heart of every New Year’s Eve celebration is the fantasy that you get to start fresh in a matter of hours. And with that fantasy comes hope—that, this time, you can put your sorrows and failures behind you.

New Year’s Eve, 1999, was marked far more by apprehension and fear than joy.

  • Fear of Y2K—that our highly computerized, globally-interconnected world would crash when the “19″ at the start of every year was replaced with a “20″.
  • Fear of Armageddon—that Jesus, after dying 2,000 years ago, would return to destroy mankind (except for those 144,000 righteous souls He deemed worthy of salvation).
  • Fear of the Millennium itself—of ending not simply another decade and century but an entire thousand-year period of history, and thus losing our historical ties to the familiar highlights of our own (and America’s) past.

And, especially where Y2K was concerned, news commentators were quick to stoke our anxieties. 

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For those living on the West Coast of the United States on December 31, 1999, the day began with news reports of celebrations of the New Year in such distant countries as Australia and New Zealand.

“So far,” each of these reports ended, “there have been no reports of Y2K-related outages.”

But the underlying message was clear: Stay tuned—it could still happen. And this message kept blaring for the rest of the day and into the evening.

Long before New Year’s Eve, TV newscasters repeatedly warned that, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the three places you did not want to be were:

  • In an airplane.
  • In an elevator.
  • In a hospital.

Countless numbers of people in America and around the world stocked up on food, water, batteries and other essentials for surviving an emergency.

Merchants and police feared widespread rioting and violence. If Y2K didn’t set it off, then fears of a heaven-sent Apocalypse might.

In San Francisco, along Powell Street—a major center of tourism and commerce—store owners boarded up their doors and windows as New Year’s Eve approached. Many closed earlier than usual that day.

At 9 p.m. California time, a friend of mine turned off a VCR and turned on a local news station to watch celebrations—or chaos—unfold in New York City.

If the lights went off in New York at midnight Eastern time, then, in three more hours, the same would happen in California.

When he saw lights glittering in Times Square, he felt reasonably certain that Y2K would probably be a dud.

Fortunately, no Y2K disasters occurred.

Three people I know decided to throw an “End of the World” party. They didn’t believe the world was coming to an end. But they decided to throw an “absolute last blast” party as though it were.

Among the items they stockpiled for this occasion:

  1. Country pork spareribs
  2. Yams
  3. Crabs
  4. Apple cidar
  5. Black olives
  6. Fresh cranberries
  7. Avacodos
  8. Chocolate chip ice cream
  9. Lambrusco
  10. Gin and tonic water
  11. Root beer
  12. Smoked cheese
  13. Artichoke hearts
  14. Pumpkin cream mousse cake
  15. Chocolate cake
  16. Pickles
  17. Asparagus

It was definitely an unforgettable night.

New Year’s Eve 1999 is now 18 years distant. But some lessons may still be learned from it:

Each year is a journey unto itself–filled with countless joys and sorrows. Many of these joys can’t be predicted. And many of these tragedies can’t be prevented.

Learn to tell real dangers from imaginary ones. Computers are real—and sometimes they crash. Men who died 2,000 years ago do not leap out of graveyards, no matter what their disciples predict.

Don’t expect any particular year to usher in the Apocalypse. In any given year there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, riots, floods and a host of other disasters. These have always been with us–and always will be. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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Don’t expect some Great Leader to lead you to success. As Gaius Cassius says in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Men at some time are masters of their fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Don’t expect any particular year or event to usher in your happiness. To again quote Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

If your life seems to make no sense to you, consider this: The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once noted: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

FINDING PEACE–FOR AMERICA–IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

The United States can attain peace in the Middle East—for itself.

But to do that, Americans must radically change their approach to that part of the world.

(1) The United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to dictatorial Islamic regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

(2)  Once freed from its dependency on oil, the United States can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

America will no longer have to spend billions of dollars every year propping up regimes like those in Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Nor will it have to supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.  The Shah fled the country in disgrace.

(3)  The United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation—including Israel—has the right to defend itself from aggression.  But no nation—including Israel—should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans feel morally obligated to defend Israel owing to Nazi Germany’s slaughter of six million Jews during the Holocaust.  But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

A second reason why millions of Americans feel committed to Israel lies in the mythology of the Christian Right.

Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

Many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate share this belief. That it is totally irrational and unsupported by any evidence means nothing to them.  But this does not prevent these hundreds of men and women from holding high office.

That’s because such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

(4)  The United States and its European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the Eastern European countries you’re now occupying”—because trying to do so would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why the United States did nothing to aid Hungarians when they rose up against their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And that’s why America stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 when Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union never seized any new countries.

(5)   A “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish—either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

But Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics.  Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

LEAVING THE BLOOD FEUDERS BEHIND

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2017 at 12:27 am

There can be peace–for the United States-in the Middle East.

But to achieve this, Western Europe and the United States will have to make radical changes in their approach to that part of the world.

First, the United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

The Islamic world offers only one reason for American concern: oil.

Yet its consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Second, once the United States weans itself from its dependency on fossil fuels, it can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

That means putting an end to spending billions of dollars every year to prop up regimes like those in Iraq and Egypt.  And it also means stopping the supply of big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.

Third, the United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation–including Israel–has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  But no nation–including Israel–should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel. And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. Obviously, people who hold such totally irrational views shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office.

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

Fourth, the United States and its European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years–1947 to 1991–the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union–including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”–because trying to do so would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why the United States did nothing to aid Hungarians when they rose up against their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And that’s why America stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 when Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

Fifth, a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East–but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies–so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish–either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

“Just don’t do anything that poses a threat to those living outside your barbaric lands.  In short: Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal–including nuclear ones–to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics. Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

BROWNSHIRTS WITHOUT UNIFORMS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2016 at 12:09 am

Supporters of President-elect Donald Trump are furious at Starbucks.

For starters, the company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.

Then, Starbucks “declared war on Christmas” by issuing a “less-festive” holiday paper drinking cup.

Starbucks releases its traditional red holiday cup each November. Past designs have included imagery such as snowflakes, snowmen and Christmas trees.

But in 2015, the company issued a plain red cup minus imagery, triggering a backlash among image-obsessed Christians, who saw it as an “attack” on Christmas.

[The Bible doesn’t give even a generalized date for Jesus’ birth. Nor did Jesus command his followers to celebrate his birth. At the Last Supper, he did command them to honor his death by taking the sacrament.

[Most of the traditions now associated with Christmas can be traced directly to the ancient Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the deity Saturn. These included feasting, drinking, gift-giving, hanging wreaths and decorating trees—which were not brought indoors.]

When Trump—then running for President—learned of the change in Starbucks cups, he was outraged.

“Did you read about Starbucks?” Trump asked supporters during a rally in Springfield, Ill. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ at Starbucks. No more. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” Trump told the crowd—as if, by becoming President, he could issue such an order. “That I can tell you. That I can tell you! Unbelievable.”

Donald Trump

Now that Trump is about to become President, his legions of Trumpsters aren’t waiting for an official order.

On November 17, a Trumpster using the screen name Baked Alaska came up with a new idea to intimidate Starbucks.

Going on Twitter, he advised fellow Trumpsters to proceed with “Operation #TrumpCup.”  All they had to do was:

  1. “Go to Starbucks & tell them your name is Trump
  2. “If they refuse take video
  3. “Pls share & spread the word”

One Trumpster subsequently posted on Twitter the following: “I got my Starbucks with Trump name. he yelled Trump get your drink 

Another one proudly tweeted: “@bakedalaska did this today. They didn’t want to, said it was too political. I reminded her the campaign was over & he’s our president now. pic.twitter.com/LHgi7Vqexh

This may seem wonderful to Trumpsters, but there are five serious flaws with it:

  1. By taking on the name of the man they idolize, they are obliterating their own identities.
  2. They are trying to impose their idol’s name on others, whether they admire him or not.
  3. This is exactly what the fanatical followers of all tyrants do.
  4. If there’s more than one Trumpster in a Starbucks, how will each one know which “Trump” is being summoned to get his drink?
  5. This is actually the opposite of a boycott. They’re making a “statement”—but they’re also putting money into Starbucks’ pocket while doing so.

Baked Alaska, however, intends to stick to his campaign. “We have a culture war to win,” he said in a Periscope video. He claimed that Twitter was suspending accounts of “alt-Right” [i.e., Fascist] users and that liberals were making whites—especially men—feel guilty.

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Baked Alaska with his Trump cup

Starbucks reacted by emailing the following statement: “Over the years, writing customer names on cups and calling out their names has been a fun ritual in our stores. Rarely has it been abused or taken advantage of. We hope and trust that our customers will continue to honor that tradition. We don’t require our partners to write or call out names.”

What’s past often turns out to be prologue.

Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump relied on threats and insults. He used them against Republicans in the primaries, and against Democrats in the general election.  

On March 16, he warned his fellow Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination at the convention in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

After Trump got the nomination, his surrogates continued to raise the specter of violence. Roger Stone, one of his advisers, told the Right-wing Breitbart News website:

“I think he’s [Trump] gotta put [Democrats] on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath….We will not stand for it.”

If Clinton had won, Trump’s followers would have remained—waiting for the next champion to voice their hatred and call on their votes. Meanwhile, they would have lost their energy as a social and political force.  

But Trump did win, and now they feel emboldened. And they will continue to draw encouragement from a steady stream of attacks by Trump and his surrogates.

During the general election, many Trump supporters openly threatened to wage armed rebellion against the government if Clinton won.  

What will they do after Trump becomes President—and starts blasting tweets at those who have offended his fragile ego?

Will they stand in front of Starbucks shops and refuse entry to customers–as Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted Stormtroopers blocked customers from entering Jewish stores? 

And will intimidated local police stand by and allow it—as they did in Hitler’s Germany? 

“Operation TrumpCup” is only the beginning.

THE MOTHER OF ALL NEW YEAR’S EVES

In History, Social commentary on January 4, 2016 at 12:56 am

New Year’s Eve, 2015, now lies behind us.

But for those who consciously lived through December 31, 1999, there will never be another New Year’s Eve like it.

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for people to reflect on the major events of the previous 12 months. Some of these are highly personal. Others have been shared by the entire country.

Some of these remembrances inevitably bring pleasure. Others bring pain.

But at the heart of every New Year’s Eve celebration is the fantasy that you get to start fresh in a matter of hours. And with that fantasy comes hope–that, this time, you can put your sorrows and failures behind you.

New Year’s Eve, 1999, was marked far more by apprehension and fear than joy.

  • Fear of Y2K–that our highly computerized, globally-interconnected world would crash when the “19″ at the start of every year was replaced with a “20″.
  • Fear of Armageddon–that Jesus, after dying 2,000 years ago, would return to destroy mankind (except for those 144,000 righteous souls He deemed worthy of salvation).
  • Fear of the Millennium itself–of ending not simply another decade and century but an entire thousand-year period of history, and thus losing our historical ties to the familiar highlights of our own (and America’s) past.

And, especially where Y2K was concerned, news commentators were quick to stoke our anxieties.

For those living on the West Coast of the United States on December 31, 1999, the day began with news reports of celebrations of the New Year in such distant countries as Australia and New Zealand.

“So far,” each of these reports ended, “there have been no reports of Y2K-related outages.”

But the underlying message was clear: Stay tuned–it could still happen. And this message kept blaring for the rest of the day and into the evening.

Long before New Year’s Eve, TV newscasters repeatedly warned that, when midnight struck on January 1, 2000, the three places you did not want to be were:

  • In an airplane.
  • In an elevator.
  • In a hospital.

Countless numbers of people in America and around the world stocked up on food, water, batteries and other essentials for surviving an emergency.

Merchants and police feared widespread rioting and violence. If Y2K didn’t set it off, then fears of a heaven-sent Apocalypse might.

In San Francisco, along Powell Street–a major center of tourism and commerce–store owners boarded up their doors and windows as New Year’s Eve approached. Many closed earlier than usual that day.

At 9 p.m. California time, a friend of mine turned off a VCR and turned on a local news station to watch celebrations–or chaos–unfold in New York City.

If the lights went off in New York at midnight Eastern time, then, in three more hours, the same would happen in California.

When he saw lights glittering in Times Square, he felt reasonably certain that Y2K would probably be a dud.

Fortunately, no Y2K disasters occurred.

Three people I know decided to throw an “End of the World” party. They didn’t believe the world was coming to an end. But they decided to throw an “absolute last blast” party as though it were.

Among the items they stockpiled for this occasion:

  1. Country pork spareribs
  2. Yams
  3. Crabs
  4. Apple cidar
  5. Black olives
  6. Fresh cranberries
  7. Avacodos
  8. Chocolate chip ice cream
  9. Lambrusco
  10. Gin and tonic water
  11. Root beer
  12. Smoked cheese
  13. Artichoke hearts
  14. Pumpkin cream mousse cake
  15. Chocolate cake
  16. Pickles
  17. Asparagus

It was definitely an unforgettable night.

New Year’s Eve 1999 is now 16 years distant. But some lessons may still be learned from it:

Each year is a journey unto itself–filled with countless joys and sorrows. Many of these joys can’t be predicted. And many of these tragedies can’t be prevented.

Learn to tell real dangers from imaginary ones. Computers are real–and sometimes they crash. Men who died 2,000 years ago do not leap out of graveyards, no matter what their disciples predict.

Don’t expect any particular year to usher in the Apocalypse. In any given year there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, riots, floods and a host of other disasters. These have always been with us–and always will be. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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Don’t expect some Great Leader to lead you to success. As Gaius Cassius says in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”: “Men at some time are masters of their fate. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Don’t expect any particular year or event to usher in your happiness. To again quote Lincoln: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

If your life seems to make no sense to you, consider this: The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once noted: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

DECLARE VICTORY–AND LEAVE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 8, 2015 at 12:02 am

President Barack Obama wants to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with bombing–supported by Special Forces and ground troops from “friendly” Islamic regimes.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans want to wage full-scale war against ISIS with massive numbers of regular forces.

But the United States has a third alternative to attain peace–for itself–in the Middle East.  It is one that will demand radical changes in its approach to both Islamic regimes and Israel.

First, embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

The Islamic world offers only one reason for American concern: oil.

Yet its consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Second, with alternatives to fossil fuels, America can end its relationship with Islamic regimes.

That means putting an end to spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial, unpopular regimes like those in Iraq and Egypt.  And it also means stopping the supply of big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to such Islamic regimes.

Third, end the “permanent bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation--including Israel–has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression. But no nation–including Israel–should have the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust.  But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.Flag of Israel.svg

Flag of Israel

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel.  And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

Related image

Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

This is the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate.  It should be obvious that people who hold such totally irrational views shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office.

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

Fourth, accept that America faces a no-win situation with Israelis and Islamics.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel–diplomatically or militarily–ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step–diplomatically or militarily–the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

In short: The United States is like a giant who has one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in any Islamic country–leaving his private parts fully exposed to whichever side wants to take a shot at them.

Fifth, erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years–1947 to 1991–the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union–including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”–because trying to do so would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why the United States did nothing to aid Hungarians when they rose up against their Soviet occupiers in 1956.  That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And that’s why America stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 when Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

Sixth, stop fretting–and intervening–every time a new outbreak of barbarism occurs in the Middle East.

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East–but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies–so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish–either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

“Just don’t do anything that poses a threat to those living outside your barbaric lands.  In short: Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal–including nuclear ones–to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis.

Nor between Christians and Islamics.

Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

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