Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fearing Fundamentalism--Frontline and the Mormons: I love Frontline and I love PBS. I must admit, however, I am undecided as to whether I want to watch its series on the Mormons. I am ardently for the separation of church and state and am an avowed skeptic of all religious and other belief systems. I find it MOST disturbing that our culture has entered a partnership with fanatical religious beliefs during the last fifty years but most especially during the last seven years. It dismays and frightens me. Mormonism and Fundamentalism walk hand in hand.

Watching this program on Mormons is not, for me, easy to do because of the political impact Mormonism has enjoyed and because it is one of the fastest growing fundamentalist-like movements in the world. Nearly 78% of Mormons in this country voted for George W. Bush, are avowed Republicans, are extraordinarily anti-homosexual and, of course, are misogynistic. In the not-too-distant past they considered blacks "children of Cain" nor could blacks or women be elders. Someone who is not Mormon could not step into a Mormon sanctuary. Someone who does not have children is not, in Mormon eyes, fulfilling his duty. In my opinion, they have held far too much sway on our political process as has all of Christian fundamentalism. It is ironic that Mormonism which suffered discrimination during its formative years in the United States has become in its recent history the most ardent advocate of the suppression of human rights, supporter of the Republican party and its casus belli.

Further, I cannot, in general, fathom the mythological belief systems people hold. It is staggering to me. The tenets of the Mormon faith are breathtakingly ridiculous. I reject all that they believe as I reject any other fundamentalist hocus pocus mythological belief. I no more could believe in Moroni the so called Mormon prophet or Christ walking on this continent as I could a messiah being born of a virgin, rising after death, walking on water or the infallibility of popes who in history often have acted so immorally. Nor could I believe in Moses parting the Red Sea or seeing burning bushes or Hebrews being spared in the killing of the first born or whether there WAS a killing of the first born or if there even were Jews enslaved by Egyptians. Other belief hierarchies raking in tons of money such Scientology are inane. The hypocrisies of Islam are legion. Parts of Hinduism want to imprison a man for planting a completely benign kiss on a woman. Many people fall hook, line and sinker for these inanities and give their hierarchies tons of money making their leaders very very rich promulgating those beliefs and in doing so gain immense power and influence.

How human beings who possess such a wonderful capacity for reason and ability for rational science could eschew that reason and the laws of physics by accepting religious phantasmagoric myths as truth, is beyond my capacity to understand. Humankind has fought long and hard to advance to the Age of the Renaissance and on to the Age of Reason. Centuries of progress could be squandered in an instant.

I believe fundamentalist religions including Mormonism is the greatest threat to mankind along side nuclear war. Fundamentalist religious beliefs, in fact, may be responsible for the very use of nuclear weaponry itself which would destroy civilization as we know it. Beliefs are about money and about power. They are about power over me.

The fact that Mormonism has donated so much money to Republican politics, supports George W. Bush and those like him, wants to deny rights to women, blacks and homosexuals, considers those who do not have children not fulfilling the law and has been for years in general against progressive politics is an anathema to me. It is their new found power I fear. If I watch Frontline's The Mormons it will, indeed, be a hard thing for me to do.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Democratic Debate: I loved the Democratic debate. I loved every single one of the candidates. I don't care WHO wins the Democratic nomination. Absolutely any Democrat would be better than the insipid destructive fool and poor excuse we have now for a president and better than any other Republican candidate. Republicans mean more of the same old disastrous policies both foreign and domestic. They are not the party of the middle classes. They are the party of billionaires.

When will the American public wake up to what really is moral and what is not? No one's life is affected by the so called social issues except the ones who do not want to be shackled by government or religion or both. If you don't want to have homosexual sex or an abortion then don't. If you want to pray then do. Who cares. Just do not force your beliefs on anyone who does not want a subscription. We desperately need a New Day.

The Democrats were, I thought, effective last evening. They were not combative, they were civilized, unified and SMART. Finally can this country elect someone SMART? Is that too much to ask? I loved all the Democratic debaters including Mike Gravel whom I thought had the ability to, with emotion, say what we many of us feel and then some. Good for him.

I am voluntarily praying morning, noon and night that Democrats sweep in 2008 so that we can undue the horror that has fractured us over the last seven years and so that we can have a communicative intellect occupy the most powerful office on earth. The Democratic debate was great fun. I say bring em on!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam a national treasure: I was so saddened to hear about the death of the eminent journalist and author David Halberstam. I feel we as a nation are diminished when people like he leave us especially before their time. A PBS documentary on Americana will not be the same without David Halberstam's voice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A History of Swagger: This country has a history of swagger. So much of our history is about the waging of war and the glorification of violence. From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to Andrew Jackson's devastation of the Indian, to the Alamo, to the Wild West, to Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, to LBJ's Vietnam, to Ronald Reagan's Star Wars, to the swagger of all swaggerers George W. Bush and his devastating slaughter in Iraq, his dead or alive mentality and his "bring em on" spewing -- no wonder there is violence in our land. Violence has been and is everywhere. It is in every city and every town, on every TV program and in much of film and there is always shock radio. Our country is saturated in blood, guns, violence, vitriol and vulgarity. No wonder there is violence in our land. We say we loath it but we, in fact and in part, love it.

We love our warriors, we love men who are macho, we love our bombs and we love our guns because all make us feel so powerful. We are not powerful though. We are perhaps, at our core weak, and the world senses it. We have succumbed at times to the lesser angels of our nature and we have shown the world how might does not often make right but makes misery and makes enemies. It makes Columbines, it makes VA Techs, it makes Wacos, it makes Oklahoma City bombings, it makes Ruby Ridges, it makes Vietnams and it makes Iraq.

We live in a country that cares more about its guns than it does about its people's healthcare. We need a change in leadership and a change in direction and we need it fast so that our constitutional government and the better angels of our nature do not succumb to the onslaught!
The Media and the Message: The coverage of the VA Tech shooting by the media has been wonderful. It has provided up to the minute knowledge of the events. The emphasis on the tragedy has been appropriate. However, the 24/7 coverage of it by MSNBC, CNN and other networks, I believe, becomes over done WHEN they are announcing the same news over and over and over again since there is no new news which has not already been reported. I suspect that the media saturation does contribute to our violent culture especially among youth which makes a copy cat scenario more possible. Overdone news coverage could provide rationale to many pathological personalities in this culture to gain entry into the macabre hall of fame no matter how dubious that distinction is.

I know we cannot go back to the days of the Huntley Brinkley Report but just a little less repetition by the news media might be exactly what the public really wants. The coverage of the Imus situation and the VA Tech utter tragedy is non-stop and while it is very very important, much of the media neglects other news out of, for example, Iraq which is a continual never-ending slaughter. Hugely important things are happening there which threaten the lives of our very young and very best. Further, more and more is emerging with respect to our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his impending testimony before Congress about his involvement in the firing of the US Attorneys. Some behaviors within the oval office itself possibly rise to the level of impeachable offenses. These stories could have a major impact on the very foundation of our republic.

Much as VA Tech will, I think, always have a place in our hearts there is other news as well which should not be neglected and it is vital that the public now be informed in equal fashion about it!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vatican Veracity: My heart is heavy at this time of year. Although I was born before the Shoah it has always, since I was a child, formed my politics and my character. It was, I believe, perhaps, even THE defining moment in history of the Jewish people.

I was dismayed at the Vatican's dispute with Israel with respect to attending the Holocaust memorial because they did not like the swirling questions surrounding Pius XII's response or lack of it to the Holocaust. I wrote the email below to the Vatican:

It is dismaying that a dispute has arisen between the Vatican and Israel because the Vatican did not like the swirling questions many Jews and others have surrounding Pius XII's response or lack of it to the Holocaust. As a Jew whose politics has been shaped by the tragic events of WWII, I am supremely suspect of the Vatican's position with respect to the sanctity of Pius XII. I am suspect because any time institutions of power refuse to release ALL their information regarding a specific subject it emphatically gives the appearance that they have something to hide. It raises my suspicion.

If those secret documents could exonerate the wartime Pope then one would think the Vatican would rush to release them to settle the controversy surrounding Pius's involvement in the events of the Holocaust. Conversely, if there are embarrassing documents that indicate the Vatican through Pius XII was complicit in the horror, well, indeed, the unequivocal hypocrisy and the utter unconscionable attempt to make Pius XII a saint would be more dastardly than words can describe.

Until we know exactly what ALL the documents in the Vatican say about Pius XII and the Church of that era, until NONE is hidden from view and until the Vatican is honest, then the Jewish people and the world will never really know what Pius XII did or did not do; we will always have a question as to Pius XII's complicit acquiescence and indeed his contribution to the events of the Holocaust.

Pius was a rabid anti-Communist which leads me to think that the rise of fascist states in Europe such as Nazi Germany and Italy was possibly not that abhorrent to Pius XII. Fascists, of course, have been notoriously anti-Communist. I suspect, although I do not know this for a fact, that Pius XII thought perhaps the right wing dictatorships emerging were not so bad. Maybe he thought they were better than Communist states and if it meant sacrificing Jews he may have concluded so be it. The historical credo of the Church indicting the Jews for the killing of Christ could have given rationale in his mind that the Jews somehow deserved to suffer their fate. Maybe he thought, too, that Germany and Italy were anti-Communist states so he did not want to offend them by coming out vociferously against Nazi policies vis a vie the "Jewish question." I do not possess a great deal of evidence to affirm my suspicions since the Vatican refuses to release the pertinent documents but I tentatively conclude, because of the few statements I have read by Pius XII, that he did not do enough if anything to challenge what was to be the Jewish fate.

One would think a policy which resulted in the extermination of 2/3rds of the Jews of Europe would invite resounding criticism and outrage by a Pope. It appears it did not. The intense secrecy of the Vatican today makes my suspicion seem correct because the Vatican remains an institution which hides many of the documents relating the events of its history. Until the Vatican opens those documents up for close inspection and scrutiny for all the world to see or worse if it shreds them, I will always think Pius XII was part of the horrendous acts of that era and part of the attempted genocide of the Jews! To make him a saint in view of that would be more insulting and despicable than my words have the ability to convey. Perhaps, you can prove my suspicions wrong through release of the pertinent evidence.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Moral Bankruptcy at the Bank: There is no question in this world that there is one form of justice for the poor, one for the very rich and yet another for the very rich who happens to be president of the World Bank. The stain that is on Paul Wolfowitz is indelible and spreads throughout the world up to and including the World Bank. He has been the driving force from the formulation of the volcanic blunder of Iraq policy to the ever so unethical behavior as president of this prestigious institution.

He is involved in smarmy immoral conduct this time through his efforts to hire and significantly advance within the World Bank the monitory interests of a woman with whom he is sexually involved. This is yet another example of the fact that if one is rich and powerful one can get away with nearly anything. The World Bank which is supposedly involved in advancing the plight of the poor around the globe should be ashamed of the situation within which it finds itself because of the bad behavior of its president. The hypocrisy is glaring. This institution cannot pretend to be one thing, dictating to the underdeveloped world what they need to do to amend their corrupt practices and then allow the president of this Bank to be caught literally with his pants down involved in his own corrupt immoral behavior which taints the Bank.

The situation regarding the hiring of Paul Wolfowitz's girlfriend at a salary beyond the reach of most people, immeasurably affects the World Bank's efforts to improve the condition of the underdeveloped world because of this conditional deceptiveness. This is an ethical lapse of great magnitude and Paul Wolfowitz should get his just reward and be immediately fired!! Perhaps then can we say there is SOME justice in this sad conflagrant world!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This was written in response to an article by John Perazzo at the web site (link below) which talked about the racial hypocracy of Al Sharpton and other black leaders. Al Sharpton according to Mr. Perazzo has had a particularly egregious history including but not limited to his involvement in Tawana Brawley case in New York City as well as the case of an inadvertent killing of a black child by a Hassidic Jew.

Mr. Perazzo your article on Rev. Sharpton was riveting. Much of it I knew. If you will pardon the pun nothing is simply black or white. I try to be a fair person but it is ever so hard to know which side the angels will reside. The events you relate are indeed horrifically shameful. Being Jewish those events make my blood boil. Still, in this instance at this time, Imus did utter a simply awful comment. Should he be pilloried like he has been? I do not know. Part of me does feel bad for him to some degree. Sharpton perhaps would do well to review some New Testament which talks about turning another cheek or casting the first stone. Sometimes though, although I am not a believer, I think in Biblical fashion the more appropriate edict says one does reap what one sows.

The history of this country with respect to the African American all 500 years of it has been abominable. The black southern experience is an embarrassment. Why did our Founders, whom I think were more than brilliant, not foresee that someday, if the country survived, slavery would come back to haunt their descendants? How they missed that sagacity I do not understand except that slavery was big business. We have been paying for its occurrence ever since.

When one's people have been rendered powerless for hundreds of years one gets angry. Imus is part and parcel of that anger as was the O.J. Simpson verdict and perhaps also were the events that you have mentioned in your article. This is not an excuse it is merely an observation. It is simply too bad that our country from the very beginning did not see the hypocrisy of slavery. The fact that we had a civil war about it and shed blood over it was only the beginning. Alas I fear we have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind
Bad Black Rap: The media has been saturating the airwaves regarding the issue of finding a remedy for what I now call the Imus phenomenon. Some say the big purveyors of black racist comments are black rap music and ghetto slang itself which gives a permission slip to everyone saying it is okay to use that type of language. To some degree, perhaps, this is correct but I believe, too, it is the black person's right to say about his own group what he wants. I believe when a black person uses derogatory characterizations it is often a way for him to render powerless the hateful speech that whites have used to subjugate, demean and sometimes crush him. If the black man uses those words it weakens those words and I think it says to the culture those words, horrible as they are, have no power over him anymore. I believe, though, when a white person uses those words the old threat that whites posed historically to blacks reemerges. I believe the so- called conservative shock jocks often use the very hateful, mean, vituperative, and profane words they claim to oppose. There is a mean-spiritedness and a cruelty which exists in much of the media perhaps reflecting a large part of the country. I think everyone everywhere needs to reexamine their hearts. Perhaps, the Imus volcanic eruption will lead to a kinder gentler nation. I am not sure that it will but at least I can hope that it does.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A cancer on the body politic: I believe Imus is part and parcel of some typical "conservative" shock jocks in America. There is nothing warm and fuzzy about these radio/TV personalities. As a matter of fact they are the very essence of those traits they claim conservatism is against. They clamor and decry the vulgarization of America but they are the ones who most often generate callous, uncaring, hate filled rhetoric. Why do they do this? Because audiences listen and listeners turn into money. None of us is immune to it.

There is and perhaps always has been a cancer on the body politic of this country and it is the fact that the country has often not lived up to its ideals and many refuse still to admit this fact. An American conservative movement comprised of a so called "moral majority" has developed in the last fifty years. It has been designed to reject and deflect much of the academic criticism of this country with respect to most especially race and foreign policy. I suggest Imus's racist spewing has much to do with this phenomenon.

The modern conservative movement was a movement begun to counteract the late 60's cultural revolt. If the New Left called into question what historian Howard Zinn calls American exceptionalism the American Right rejected that criticism and became angry. From Vietnam to Iraq; from Mississippi to Boston this "moral majority" has refused to see the real immoralities of this country and created a reactionary movement in opposition to those who would illuminate our hypocrisies. Race is a part of it. It continues to be one sore on our body politic that festers; the cancer that will never go away. Imus is merely a reflection of an age old malady. Race concerning blacks in America has deep historical roots. Whites often cannot admit it and worse many do not care about it. We must care about it. The Imus volcanic eruption should teach us we must be very careful what we say and to whom we say it. We must confront our inequities as a nation or like cancer our malady will ultimately consume and kill us.
Remembering the Holocaust: Someone recently said to me in 100 years no one will even remember the Holocaust existed. I suspect, although certainly its occurrence has application to all people and for nearly every social relationship known to man, it will be primarily the Jew who remembers it if even they do. In a PBS documentary about the Holocaust, an expert was asked by the commentator if the Holocaust had any meaning or purpose whatsoever. He simply answered "no". Anger about that nearly approaches for me the anger I have of the event itself. To think that no one will care or that no one will remember that six million lives (great scholars and scientists included) are gone and that there REALLY is no good reason why or no lesson to be learned from the Shoah makes my blood boil.

I have seen the cartoon clip remembering the event which was attached to an email I received during Yom Hashoah last year and it seems this year world events have waxed worse. The Middle East, thanks to putrid US and western foreign policy for over a century and certainly presently, is now ablaze everywhere with more carnage, I suspect, to come. Israeli policy too has had its immense blunders and miscalculations. The Arabs are empowered. This is not good for the US and it is not good for the Jew especially an Israeli one.

I surely do not know what the answer is or why the Jewish people have been born to suffer for over 5000 years. Perhaps there is really no higher purpose to explain the tortured history of the Jews. The Holocaust though will always remain sacred in my heart and, perhaps, if there is indeed a God it will always remain sacred to Him too.

Lets hope for a better year.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

I sent this to the Globe in response to their editorial in the Sunday Globe about embryonic stem cell research. The Globe's article asked the question are 200 cells or blastocysts in a petrie dish really a human being and George Bush's opinion that blastocysts in a petrie dish are human beings.

I cannot speak of George Bush's moral compass without raising my blood pressure to Olympian heights. George Bush vetoes an embryonic stem cell bill which would have used 100 to 200 cells growing in a petrie dish in fertilization clinics to help, perhaps, ultimately millions of full term human beings discard or reduce their disabilities. If the embryonic cells, which George Bush calls human beings, are not used to impregnate they will ultimately be thrown out. Not only will those cells be rendered useless but those real life human beings whom those cells may have helped will suffer and even die as well.

While allegedly caring so much about human life George Bush has dropped bunker buster bombs on innocent men, women and children. He has lied to take our country to war against another country which did nothing to us. He ultimately killed and maimed thousands of innocent human beings which he has termed collateral damage. The killing goes on. The enormity of Bush's hypocrisy is staggering. Bush is sinking in the quicksand of a immoral quagmire and pulling the rest of us down with him. Morality is truly relative. If human life means so much to George Bush he should end this truly immoral and unjustified war in Iraq, sign a stem cell research bill and begin to save real lives rather than kill them.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Response to Rush: Rush Limbaugh thinks it is wrong that the 9/11 victims received millions and our troops receive a pittance. He thinks it's wrong that our Congress gets a raise and our troops get little. I agree ... in part:

Yes, I will admit this one time that blowhard Limbaugh is somewhat (although not completely) correct. It is ridiculous the compensation or lack of it our troops get. I am glad, however, that the 9/11 victims received their money because our federal and state governments were beyond negligent for the happenings of 9/11. Bush was warned "terrorists to strike buildings in US using aircraft" and he did nothing. All George Bush could say when he received that warning was "okay now you've covered your ass." Then he proceeded to go on vacation, clear brush in Texas and travel to Florida to read "My Pet Goat" to kids in an elementary school. Seven minutes passed before he understood the nation was under attack.

I believe both those killed in 9/11 are due their millions AND those killed and wounded in combat should receive the same just compensation. There is no doubt about that one. But guess what? Our president cut spending which included the benefits to survivors and families of those in the military. Now he will veto the military funding bill because Democrats have the unmitigated temerity to attach a deadline for withdrawal so the killing will stop. Imagine the nerve of them to want the troops home at a date certain. The treatment of our military or lack of treatment by this administration has been and is egregious. It has contributed to many severe injuries and many deaths.

The fault of Iraq (and I believe even of 9/11 too) lies at Bush's feet. He was horrendously negligent and purposefully criminal. Iraq is HIS war. He owns it lock, stock and barrel. Our dead should be (but are not) on his conscience if he even has a reptilian remnant of one. This war is criminal. He and his entire administration are criminals. He lied this nation into a war from which we will never in generations be able to extricate except by Congressional mandate IF they have the cajones to do so. He and his administration have perpetrated unconstitutional acts through the abandonment of habeas corpus, the use of illegal wiretaps, spying, the exposure of a CIA agent and for many other reasons. He should be tried for war crimes because he lied us into a war which has killed thousands and he has sanctioned the use of torture. He should be impeached for treasonous high crimes and misdemeanors as the Constitution instructs because those crimes so befit the founders intent.

The gas bag Limbaugh is right in part though. There is something rotten in Denmark when Congress gives itself a raise and our military is given peanuts and not enough body armor. Rush Limbaugh is not one to talk however. He has supported and does support the Bush fiasco that is Iraq. At this point after the man behind the curtain has been exposed and knowing the lies perpetrated to send our troops to Iraq, anyone who does support this war now is, in my opinion, complicit in it. All Bush knows how to do is drop bombs and watch while Rome burns. How Christian!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Render to Science what is Science: I wrote this to the Wall Street Journal which has a great section I just found which carries editorials created by the general public. I couldn't resist my favorite subject -- the historicity of religion and religion's impact on jet propelling the future scientific advancement of humankind into historical reverse. CNN carried an article by Dr. Collins who worked on the Human Genome Project but still tries to square science, the science of DNA and evolution with his belief in God which he amazingly sees as science too.

Dr. Franics Collins stated believer in God/Jesus and medical doctor working on the Human Genome Project certainly is a poor excuse for a scientist. It is NOT, I repeat NOT incumbent upon the atheist to prove the non-existence of god. It is incumbent upon the BELIEVER to prove the existence of god. One cannot prove a negative. There is, of course NO truth of the existence of God that has emerged. Even Collins says it requires a leap of faith but believes it as fact anyway which is on par with the facts of evolution and DNA. That is NOT I repeat NOT science. That is religion and belief NOT fact. Science is FACT and science is neutral with respect to the existence of God until such time as it can unequivocally be proven that a God exists.

As for the existence of Jesus which he says is true, there is NO, I repeat NO proof whatsoever as to the historicity of the existence of Jesus as there is NO proof whatsoever that much of the Old Testament is true or that the tenets of any other religion on the face of the earth are true. If Dr. Collins wants to believe in the man/God Jesus, the parting of the Red Sea or the tooth fairy FINE but do not pass this off as fact. Religion is NOT fact. It is a collection of stories based on other stories from other belief systems including ancient pagan beliefs.

We modern-day humans lose sight of the fact that Biblical stories have a cultural and historical context. They did not simply come out of nowhere. It would better serve mankind if Dr. Collins would admit to THAT truth and leave science to true scientists and religion to those who study the etiology of mythological beliefs.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

James Carroll's article "Passover and the Passion" was brilliant and completely accurate. What most Christians do not realize when they are indoctrinated by their faith is that Christianity, indeed, had an early church history. Christians need to microscopically study it and understand most importantly the context of the tenets of their faith. There is a history behind the Christian story. Christianity was a competing faith among Jews. Never, I believe, in the wildest dreams of those who wrote the Gospels decades after Jesus' death, did they think that those passages would be used century after century by the Church and other Christians to exact their pound of flesh against the Jews for the death of Jesus.

Ultimately, the Holocaust and the killing of the six million had as its necessary historical precondition the proclamation of the perfidious Jew within the Gospel text itself. In my opinion, no matter how much the Church has tried to erase that stain and its villainous consequences for the Jewish people it cannot because it is there in black and white. What is not there in black and white is its historical underpinnings. People are often ignorant of the historical veracity of all Biblical text. Christians in particular often understand nothing of Christianity's roots first and foremost within Judaism. Many I suspect have feared that understanding the historical context of Christianity or any faith will undermine its credibility. Therefore, Christian authorities who have taught young children for millennia about that faith conveniently ignored and omitted the importance of its historical beginning. To say the least, the consequences of that omission have been profound.