Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israel chooses to make a bad situation worse the worse situation worst

I don't blog on Israel too much, the reason for this is two-fold:
  1. I'm severely conflicted where Israel and her actions as a sovereign nation are concerned
  2. Discussions about Israel leave me with a huge headache that comes with bashing one's head against a brick wall
Outside of Israel, the only support the country gets is from a mixture of Jews who are so acutely aware of antisemitism they see it everywhere to the point their support of Israel is a knee-jerk reaction and moderate Jews (like myself) who have a bit of a love:hate relationship with the country, and Evangelical Christians who will use their "support of Israel" for political gain (see: GOP) but really just want control of Jerusalem to fulfill their religious prophecy. The rest of the world is pretty much stacked against Israel - Israel (and Jews who support her in any way) are the biggest unifying force between the extremes of the left and right in the US. I do not look for antisemitism everywhere, nor do I believe every accusation of antisemitism but the truth remains that a lot of the world's stance against Israel has a core of institutionalized antisemitism. Human Rights groups & the UN are quick to jump all over Israel as an affront to civilized nations on the human rights front while often, but not always, ignoring similar or worse infractions of other countries - especially Arab ones (especially when those infractions and acts of terrorism are against Jews). Israel, like all countries, should be taken to task for actual human/civil rights violations - I just worry when one country (which is not as bad as so many others) is held out more in what appears to be motivated as much by politics as it is by any concern for human rights. Groups, such as British Academics, are quick to [attempt to] take punitive action against Israeli academics to protest complicity with Israel's actions (it's not without irony that British Academics take offense to any sort of occupation) when the same organizations have never even considered taking similar actions against private citizens of countries that support terrorism of any kind. It's all very one-sided and saying something shouldn't be construed as antisemitic doesn't mean that antisemitism is in play.

In truth, Israel is held to a higher standard than any other country. When Israel is attacked, she alone must show restraint. When she loses her temper and responds in kind, she alone is criticized - when that is pointed out, those criticizing her accuse the country of acting like an immature child pointing out that someone else started it. Let's get it straight here folks, this isn't two toddlers fighting over toys or a little pushing between siblings, this is a case of terrorists supported by Israel's neighbors (and Hamas, the terrorist organization cum political party, which stands as the elected rulers of the Palestinians) targeting Israeli citizens with guns, bombs, etc. Turning the other cheek to show some "moral superiority" has gotten Israel nothing - she's still routinely and unilaterally condemned, she still has to let terrorists out of jail en masse and, unlike other countries, she will still have to return land won in war and, for this, her people understandably don't have any reasonable expectation of any peace or good will towards them.

In the face of this, Israel's choice to go bat-guano crazy on Hamas's proverbial arse was far from wise. It is, in fact, probably the single-most ill-advised & self-destructive thing she has ever done. The whole world needs to take both sides to task for this constant war and, if necessary, come together to mandate a resolution upon them that must be honored as any cross-border act of aggression (including those acts by proxies) will serve to allow one side to respond in kind with the full support of the world.

UPDATE: I meant to include the Link to JStreet's petition for the US to take action to stop the violence in Gaza now

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The War On Christmas: The War Within

Every year at Christmastime which, sometimes, starts as early as Halloween, I start what seems to be a tradition of posts on the so-called "War on Christmas." The now annual battles start with Christianity's biggest loudest, most obnoxious and, by default, morally superior defenders throwing down the gauntlet to challenge anyone who shows lack of respect for one of the most holy Christian holidays for the heinous and heretical transgressions of holding "holiday" parties, "holiday" sales, sending "holiday" cards and, in the case of retailers, having staff use a "happy holidays" greeting. The complaints of the Christmas Warriors (Fox News, American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Bill Donahue, et al.) is that these people/corporations are blaspheming the holiday by rendering their commercialization and mass marketing too generic. In short, these offenders are not bastardizing Christmas enough for the taste of the holiday defenders.

The common meme of my posts tends to focus on that particular point and the logical conclusion that, if the goal really is to protect and preserve a religious holiday, the Christmas Warriors should actually be lauding the actions they fight and turn their fiery rhetoric against excessive use of their holiday to worship at the church of the almighty buck.

The truth is, though, that there is a bit of war on Christianity in this country. Ironically, it's a war coming from within the ranks of the diverse Christian community itself (including the Christmas Warriors) and the heart of that war is Christmas. The Puritans, the people from which the current crop of fundamentalists grew, didn't celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact they tried to suppress it in the colonies by outlawing and fining celebration of the holiday. Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans continued to consider Christmas to be a holy day of obligation but the rest of post Protestant reformation Christianity didn't, exactly, join in the celebrations. It wasn't until mass German immigration to the US that Christmas celebrations boomed here and it became an American holiday as opposed to a religious one
Only with the arrival of German immigrants after the Civil War did it emerge as the major American feast. With the revolution in retailing--marked by the rise of department stores and advertising--celebrations focused on throwing parties, buying and giving gifts, and sending greeting cards (first sold in 1874, they became a million dollar business within a few years). The Coca-Cola Co. adopted as its logo a jolly bearded man in a red and white suit, and Santa bypassed Jesus as Christmas' main icon. Slate
The holiday has even become less religious as more and more Protestant (including those on the front of the religious-culture wars) churches close on Christmas Day
But however they spend Christmas Day — "the feast of Christmas" on the Christian liturgical calendar — one way most Americans don't celebrate it is by going to church. While demand for Christmas Eve celebrations is so high that some churches hold as many as five or six different services on the 24th of December, most Protestant churches are closed on the actual religious holiday. For most Christians, Christmas is a day for family, not faith.

If that sounds like the triumph of culture over religion, it is. By the middle of the 20th century, Americans had embraced a civil religion that among other things elevated the ideal of family to a sacrosanct level. The Norman Rockwell image of family gathered around the tree became a Christmas icon that rivaled the baby Jesus. And Christmas Eve services — with their pageantry and familiar traditions — became just one part of the celebration, after the family dinner and before the opening of presents. Time

So while the Christmas Warriors maintain an easily shattered facade that they are trying to reclaim Christmas as a religious holiday, what they are really doing is reinforcing the holiday as any but religious by continuing to conflate a very narrow view of Christianity with Americana. Why would they do this if the ultimate goal is to protect religion and religious tradition? They do it for all the obvious reasons illuminated above - in making Christmas a patriotic American Mall holiday and then tying it to religion on the back end, they tie Christianity in as a core tenet of US citizenship. There is a war going on, but it isn't about protecting a religious holiday from Atheists and "Sssssssssecularists" (uppity folks of other religions and people who claim to be Christian despite the fact their own politics of tolerance makes them anything but that in the eyes of "real" Christians), this is a war waged by Christian Nationalists against anyone and everyone who does not support the cause of the strictest of Christian Bibles supplanting the Constitution in the determination of civil law. This war on Christmas is nothing more than a way for Christian Nationalists and their supporters to take a figurative wiz on the whole country like an animal marking it's territory.

Happy Christmas!


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Uncovered Front in the War on Christmas

David Hiltebrand's article about all the films opening on Christmas Day and how a treck to the movies is the "new" way to celebrate the holiday was one I pretty much ignored in today's Inky. While I have had the fleeting thought that something was amiss when hearing a movie is opening Christmas Day, the thoughts pretty much flew out of my head as quickly as they popped into it. The timing of the movie openings were completely and utterly inconsequential, at least that's what I thought until I read Steven Reynold's commentary in All Spin Zone [emphasis added]:
But it is a fact that going out to the movies has been a Jewish thing to do for some time on Christmas Day. Gentiles have been catching up with this tradition for the last many years, admittedly, but just forty years ago you wouldn’t have seen any Christians at the movies on Christmas Day. Heck, back in the day movie theaters weren’t even open.
At first I thought, "oh yeah, Jews have had the movie Chinese food as Christmas Day tradition for my whole life. . . what's new about this?" and then I re-read the sentence I bolded above and immediately thought why the heck aren't these people in church (or at least honoring Jesus with their families and friends at home)??!? My second thought was, why the hell isn't this front on the war on Christmas being protected by the defenders of all things sacred like Daddy Dobson, Don Wildmon, the gang at Fox and Bill Donohue?

Why is it that Christians are flocking to turn Hollywood schlock into blockbusters on Christmas Day? Is it because many of the biggest of churches are closed on the day they should be jam-packed? My guess is that those great defenders of Jesus are actually a big part of the reason there's little, if any, Christ left in Christmas at all. They are so focused on the marketing and mass merchandising of this holiday that their idea of "keeping Christ in Christmas" amounts to nothing more than crass consumerism and shining examples of false prophesying.

While I don't think Jesus spent his birthdays in shul and am absolutely positive he didn't celebrate at his local cineplex, I'm also pretty darn sure that he didn't preach the importance of showy Christmas sales, the need to make everyone sing his praise as publicly as possible or how to best bastardize his name & story to show your alleged moral superiority to nonbelievers. If those supposed defenders of Christmas actually spent some time reading the teachings of Jesus in their bibles, maybe they'd finally put a little Christ in Christmas themselves and allow everyone to celebrate this season with some dignity.

Happy Chanukah!


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A perverted sense of justice

About 42 years ago, Bill Barnes committed a crime - a nasty, heinous crime that left a young man critically wounded. Walter Barclay, a 23-year old rookie in the Philly police department, was paralyzed after being sprayed with gunfire from Barnes' weapon during an armed robbery.

As a result of the crimes he committed, Barnes was tried and convicted of attempted murder and related crimes. He received a sentence of 10 - 20 years; there are various and inconsistent reports of how long Barnes actually served, it seems as though he spent at least 12 years in jail for this crime. A career criminal, Barnes spent most of his adult life in jail but eventually got a real job and started speaking to various groups about the many mistakes he made in his life.

Barclay spent most of the year after the shooting in rehab. His condition improved over time and he eventually regained some use of his legs that enabled him to walk a little with the use of leg braces and ride a stationary bike for a bit. Barclay's goal was to gain some sense of normalcy and independence

"The main thing for my brother after he got shot was to be independent," said his sister, Rosalyn Harrison. "He did everything for himself: He cooked, he cleaned, he shopped. None of us were allowed to do anything."

He was thrilled when buddies outfitted his car with special hand controls so he could drive.

"That was his freedom," his sister said. USA Today

That freedom came with it's own complications as Barclay reinjured his spine in 2 car accidents

“The guy started spraying bullets around, and I caught two of them in the back,” Mr. Barclay said in a 1978 interview about the night he was shot. “I got over that pretty much, but then I had a car accident and hurt my back again. Then I had another and hurt my back some more.” NYT

As he aged, Barclay's health deteriorated. At some point in time, he developed hepatitis. By the time he was in his 50s he was bedridden and eventually needed a feeding tube for nutrition. He also had a foley catheter inserted to collect urine. Like many people fitted with a foley, Barclay developed a urinary tract infection (UTI) complications of which resulted in his death a mere 40 years after the shooting.

The Medical Examiner initially ruled the cause of death was natural causes, after prodding to reexamine the case, he ruled it a homicide. Despite having already been tried, convicted and served his sentence for the attempted murder of Barclay, Barnes was charged with the murder of Barclay in 2007. He has not been tried for the murder and has remained in jail since his arrest for that charge. According to a letter in this morning's Inky, Barnes was told he'd be tried last Fall and yet no trial date has been set.

This is not justice. The murder charge & Barnes' continued incarceration are nothing but retribution. There are so many mitigating factors, significant ones which are iatrogenic in nature, in the decline of Barclay's health that calling his death by UTI a homicide is nothing but a sick joke. The chain of events that DA Lynne Abraham uses to justify the charge is so long that no rational human being can rightly say it serves any legitimate purpose, let alone the cost to taxpayers. The case would be considered a stretch even if Mr. Barnes had not already faced trial and served time for this shooting under a different/lesser charge of attempted murder.

There is no statute of limitations on murder. If this were truly a case where it was necessary and appropriate to charge Mr. Barnes with murder, the DA's office should have waited patiently for Barclay to die so they could try Barnes on the more serious charge at a later date. Justice would not have been served by waiting 40+ years to charge him with murder, just as it is not served in charging him now. Based on the facts of the case, one can only surmise that the reason Mr. Barnes sits in jail now, waiting for trial, is because the DA's office is acutely aware they are unlikely to get a conviction in this case and they just want to be able to exact revenge because the person he shot was a police officer. I understand the desire of Mr. Barclay's friends and family to further punish Barnes, but the Lynne Abraham's actions in the matter are illogical, petty, vindictive and downright unjust.


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The only thing that's attractive about Ne-Yo is his bank account

and in this economy, maybe we can hope that Ne-Yo's ode to High Yellow hits his biggest asset. Ne-Yo recently made the following comments to a couple of radio DJs during an interview
All the prettiest kids is light skinned anyway . . . Essence (and a bunch of other sources too)
The video of the interview in which Ne-Yo decided to reinforce the asinine intra-racial bigotry has been removed from youtube but it was there long enough for people to see Ne-Yo's true colors. This is an ugly little secret within the black community that isn't often seen by the lightest of kids, but the pecking order has carried over since slave days when the lighter-skinned slaves got the house (domestic) jobs and the "darkies" were sent to the fields.

He's not the first black person to make derisive comments about darker skinned people. Sadly, the separation of colors is also seen in many of the music videos made by black (male) rappers who insist on casting only pretty light skinned women.

I guarantee you that the grand pooh-bah of jackassery (that'd be you Ne-Yo) would be pitching a hissy-fit were a public figure to say that all the pretty people are white (or something along the lines that any shade of brown or black was unattractive). All I can say is that Ne-Yo didn't show us that light skinned people are more atractive, he just proved that he is just plain ugly.


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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good for Civil Rights is Evil for Evangelicals

Like many logical thinking people and organizations who think nobody should be permitted to use their right to freedom of religion to deny rights to others, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has found something reassuring in the statements of former NAE lobbyist, Rev. Richard Cizik
"This week the National Association of Evangelicals lost a good man but even worse it lost credibility as a religious organization that professes to teach the Gospel. Our faith traditions call on us to celebrate, not denounce, our most sacred loving relationships," stated Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program. “Jesus calls on us first and foremost to love God and love our neighbor. We are encouraged by the growing number of religious leaders such as Rev. Richard Cizik who are looking with fresh eyes at Scripture’s requirement and wrestling with what justice for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender neighbors means.HRC
Cizik, if you recall, noted he had shifted in his beliefs and now thinks that civil unions should be permitted [for gays] and that the fundamentalist focus on how to attack teh gay menace that they've lost sight on the biggest threat to the institution of marriage: the challenges of heterosexual marriage.

In response to the heinous support by HRC, Pete LaBarbera - a man disturbingly obsessed with homosexuality, has noted that praise from any organization that thinks homosexuals should be considered human beings with the same rights as all other human beings is a very bad thing
"When you've got HRC praising your theology from a gay perspective, that's a very bad sign. Obviously, Human Rights Campaign wants to redefine the Bible. They don't want homosexuality to be a sin anymore, and they're looking for anybody, especially well-known Christians, to start changing the biblical view of homosexuality," he contends. "That's what Cizik did. He was wrong to do it. He had no biblical basis for doing it." OneNewsNow
Funny that, couldn't the Pope make similar comments about how the Protestant Reformation and resultant doctrinal changes?


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where is the Catholic League's Outrage?

Honestly, Bill Donahue (aka the Catholic League) protests everything he considers to to be disrespectful to Catholicism, so why have I not heard a peep about the following tasty bit of blasphemy?

a candy rosary?

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wingnuttery goes mainstream: The ABCs of lapel pin politics

For those of you who wonder how the wingnuts get regular, generally rational, mainstream/moderate people to support their crazy-assed antics, the percolating new cause célèbre provides us with an inside look. This morning, I received an email from my dad's cousin who (I think) is relatively moderate. The subject line was "Fwd: No Flag pins"
This is true and even though I will have little effect on ABC News revenue I do plan on being careful to not view any program that is on ABC and boycott, if at all possible, the sponsors of ABC. Barbara Walters said that this was going to hurt ABC bad. As you know she works for ABC.

This should make your blood boil...it DOES mine!






This email reminds me of the ones my former Admin, an absolutely bat-guano crazy fundamentalist who slathers herself in Wingnut butter™, forwards to me about secular threats to the US, threats to Christianity, Israel, Messianic Judaism, etc. Oddly, I don't even think the former Admin would jump on this bandwagon, let alone forward it to me and yet, my dad's cousin did. She doesn't know me well, she is after all my father's cousin and one I don't see often. She reached out to me while my mother was dying and I find the fact that she has forwarded a couple of emails regarding political issues as a weird little compliment. I have been more polite when disagreeing with her than I am with Uncle Completely-off-his-rocker (he was off the charts bonkers before the Alzheimer's and the disease has made our sparring partnership significantly less fulfilling for me despite the fact it has not diminished his masochistic‡ enjoyment of it). She was also part of the family thread regarding BHO's impact on Israel, so she has some idea that I am absolutely compelled to interject some rational thought when someone comes at me with an emotional argument.

So, what gives with this chocolate covered poo of a "controversy"? Is it actually something worthy of an action-item, boycott ABC email? Of course not, if Madonna had a financial stake in the network, I'd think she was giving them marketing advice to increase ratings for many of their shows that aren't doing too well (they all seem pretty lame to me, though people do actually watch some of their sillier shows in droves). So what gives to make ABC's decision so controversial that it appears to be the next "war on Christmas"? Like the fake war on Christmas, it creates an antagonist that is presented as taking an extreme action against something so mundane (and yet, so "important") that the action itself must be a sign of something truly sinister and threatening to the entire country. In other words, the ban seems extreme considering the banality of the act being banned and that is a dog whistle mainstreamers hear loudly enough to think something's amiss without seeming weird enough to cause them to wonder about the underlying rationale for the decision.

Truthfully, ABC's decision makes sense. The job of the reporter to is convey a story without bias or distraction. Lapel pins or other insignia can be a distraction because they are items worn with the sole purpose of making some sort of statement. Due to the idiocy of the flag pin focus of the election, which boiled these pins as a way to differentiate people as patriotic or not, the symbolism of the pin became empty at best due to the absolute Bachmannesque McCarthyesque nature of the focus on them.

This being said, my guess, based on the timing of this policy, is that it’s not to prevent anyone from showing their faux patriotism via flag pin, it’s really to prevent the questions and complaints that will come from reporters who may insist on being permitted to wear white knotted ribbons to show solidarity with the LGBT community fighting back against the passing of Prop 8 and similar “let’s use the Constitution as toilet paper “ type legislation and those will could chose to use their lapels to make other statements that take the focus away from what should be an unbiased news report.

‡ I've always suspected he actually agrees with me but is addicted to drama and wants someone else to smack him back to reality when it comes to Israel.


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Confidence lost in Evangelical Reverend who voiced logic

In yet another stunning example of why Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians have a reputation of intolerant bullies who resort to legislative force when their testimony fails to convert you, Evangelical lobbyist Rev. Richard Cizik resigned after having the audacity to inject some common sense into the politics of personal lives. Said Rev. Czik to NPR [emphasis added]:
"I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. . . . We have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and the rest that we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself -- heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to reevaluate this and look at it a little differently." NPR
The National Association of Evangelicals has publicly noted they have lost confidence in Cizik because, in the face of facts, he thought logically and then spoke instead of continuing to echo the distorted view of the NAE and similar organizations that SSM is a direct threat to the institution of marriage in that it somehow mortally injures married heterosexuals and their families. While it's appropriate and understandable for an organization to expect their spokesperson to parrot that organization's views/policies (especially when speaking on behalf of that organization) this incident sheds a light on two different, but equally interesting, tidbits:
  1. There are those within the fundamentalist/evangelical movements who are starting to think critically (judicial) instead of critically (severely judgmental)
  2. The NAE has, as an organization, now (re)confirmed it's commitment to Christian Nationalism in which attesting to a belief in a need for strict, bible literal-when-convenient, adherence to fundamentalist doctrine is the sole definition of patriotism and dissent in word (or by action - but only when the action is done by a "non-Christian") is unpatriotic and, potentially, treasonous.
The latter of the two lifts any remaining veil from the NAE's previous assertion they're not trying to force conversion on non-adherents, just making sure those hell-bent sinners know Jesus's benevolence is matched only by his overbearing father's sure, swift and absolute [negative] judgment of them.

The former, however, gives hope for progressives and devout Christians alike. As clergy and members from the orthodoxy across faiths take a step back to view their faith, religion and politics with a clear head and some degree of objectivity, they may well see that the so-called religious right and their hijacking of the GOP (and, even, the political process) has not only sullied our government, it's intercalated into the fabric of their very religion itself. Will Rogers once said "mixing politics and religion is like mixing manure and ice cream. It doesn't do much to the manure but it surely does ruin the ice cream". Progressives recognize that those espousing that a civically rooted government and legislation (aka "Secularism") is the safest and wisest form of government for humanists and people of faith (regardless of religion, denomination, etc.), this is why it is embraced by progressives, liberals and moderates alike. We also recognize that the politics of morality damages religion itself in that it not only turns religion into a weapon instead a way of living and spiritual healing, but it also leads to the destruction of a sincere faith for some jaded as the sheer hypocrisy of leadership and its most vocal proponents is publically exposed.


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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Don't worry Rod, you won't be "stuck at Governor" for long

Well it looks like Illinois Gov. Rob Blagojevich will be moving from a position in state government to one with the federal government, but I don't think it's the kind of move he thought he had in store. In an astounding example of arrogance and stupidity, it seems the Democrat thought he'd make some lifestyle improvements for his family by attempting to sell President-Elect Obama's seat in the US Senate. Needless to say, the putz is now with the federal government, being held as a guest on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a count of solicitation of bribery.

In a 76-page affidavit, federal authorities say wiretaps caught Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

At times, he discussed obtaining a substantial salary for himself at a non-profit organization or an organization affiliated with labor unions, as well as placing his wife on paid corporate boards where she might make as much as $150,000 a year, the government said.

During one recorded conversation, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and said he was "financially" hurting, the affidavit said.

"I want to make money," Blagojevich said, according to the affidavit.

The governor also often weighed the option of appointing himself to the Senate seat, saying he was "stuck" at governor and might have access to more resources as a senator than as a governor, the affidavit says. A Senate seat could also help him remake his image ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it," he said in one conversation. CNN

The most disturbing part of the story is CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, noting that it's not clear whether Blagojevich's current status will actually impede his ability to choose Obama's successor.

The greed, arrogance and stupidity of politicians never ceases to amaze me.


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Sunday, December 07, 2008

This is what it means to be a student-athlete

Myron Rolle is an athlete worthy of any fan and, if you have any doubts, the following proves it


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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ChristCo CostCo: Just Say No [to selling out Christmas]

Oh my goodness-gracious, yet another store is refusing to cater specifically to Christians who hate their religion so much, they've made shopping a critical part of one of their holiest holidays. This time it's CostCo, the bulk item superstore that directs advertising to members who pay to join their shopping club. CostCo told one of Don Wildmon's minions at the AFA that the store doesn't set up Christmas sales or have Christmas signs in the stores leading up to Christmas and that they *gasp* purposely use the word holidays in reference to the Sacred Sale Season™ between Thanksgiving Halloween and New Year.
Last week, a customer wrote to Costco and asked this direct question – "Does Costco use the word 'Christmas' in your store advertising or on any signs anywhere in your stores during the Christmas season? That's a pretty simple question, yes or no."

Kory Rosacrans, staff manager for Costco replied, "I guess the answer would be No."

Rosacrans said, "Costco does not advertise on television, on radio or in print like other retailers. We only advertise by mailings and e-mail messages sent directly to our members who have paid for the privilege of shopping with us."
I don’t know why a group of people who are supposedly devout would want to continue to focus on how to best continue the over commercialization of one of their holiest days when conventional wisdom would dictate that a devout person would actually be offended by companies diminishing the sacredness of a religious holiday as a sales ploy but then again, these are people who are actually against people being good for goodness' sake.

You can let CostCo know how you feel yourself:

James D. Sinegal, President
999 Lake Drive
Issaquah, WA 98027
Phone: 425-313-8100
Fax: 425-313-8114
E-Mail: James D. Sinegal


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Monday, December 01, 2008

Jeb Bush suggestion to promote the GOP

The former Florida governor told Newsmax correspondent Ashley Martella that Republicans should create "a shadow government" to challenge Democrats on policy grounds.

"In Washington we need to show humility and be the loyal opposition. I actually think we need to organize ourselves the form of a shadow government and make it based on policy and not on partisanship," he said. "People are sick and tired of the partisanship, just for partisan sake, but they aren't sick and tired of a loftier debate about policy. RawStory

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pastor dead, theocratic fantasies still alive and kicking

Just in case you hadn't heard, Rev. George M. Docherty, the pastor whose sermon lead to the blasphemous addition of the words "under G-d" to the Pledge of Allegiance, died on Thanksgiving at the age of 97. Unfortunately, the religious zealotry reborn from McCarthyism still refuses to go into that good night . . .


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Being Bobby Jindal

Despite the resounding defeat of the Christian Nationalist platform in the last Presidential election, the GOP continues to focus on the fundamentalist smell test as they rebuild the party. Media darling Sarah Palin, while still a fundie fav, must be making the party nervous as she seems more focused on learning more from the Madonna school of marketing than getting back to business governing her state and learning some basic civics. As such, the Republicans are looking towards the youth vote in an effort to find an Obama-Theocrat hybrid who goes by the name of Bobby Jindal. Jindal, currently Governor of Louisiana, is almost ideal as he's young (37), he's brown while still being caucasion and, as an adult convert to Catholicism, he has a proven track record showing his dedication to all things socially conservative but, as Steven Reynolds at All Spin Zone notes, the election of Obama doesn't necessarily mean the US is really in a post-racial state of mind:
This isn’t about colorblindness. Color in our society has some pretty shameful connotations, certainly, but we can also celebrate color. I need not reflect on chains and on fire hoses when I think of black, but can also think of Odunde, of beauty. It isn’t our job to ignore racial difference, but to value it. “Post-racial,” then, is a bit of a bunch of crap if one thinks of it as “beyond” racial distinction. And that appears to me to be how Bobby Jindall has packaged himself, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Jindal is no longer Piyush, for instance, but Bobby. He is no longer a worshiper of those strange Hindu Gods, but is a very conservative Catholic in the Rick Santorum mold. He talks in a folksy bayou lilt, and never seems to refer to his racial background or ethnicity. I’m thinking that’s not what won people over for Obama, and it isn’t any kind of reflection of what we’ve got going on in this country today as far as race relations are concerned. there were many, many people on the right for whom race played a vital role in their not voting for Barack Obama. At least some of those Republicans are going to see through the Jindal disquise and see him as Piyush, the dark-skinned man who has a very white wife.

I can't agree with Reynolds more. The past election cycle found that many in the GOP base has a problem with "funny names" and not being the right kind of "Christian". Jindal does get past the first hurdle by using the nickname Bobby but there are still many fundamentalists who follow Al Mohler's lead in claiming that Catholics aren't Christian. As we saw with Mitt Romney's run and McCain's need to bring Palin on to rally the base, these so-called values voters don't want anyone to usurp the "real" Christian's authority even when that "other" guy has committed to leading the country in a manner consistent with fundamentalist Christian principles.

If Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin or another white fundamentalist-friendly politician runs in 2012, Jindal's devotion to his beloved Catholic church which the fundamentalist base views as idolatrous blasphemy may hurt him by serving as a reminder of his "otherness" (I fully expect them to harp that he has simply converted from one polytheistic religion to another). While conservative commentators Jonah Goldberg and Kathleen Parker disagree about characterizations of the Christian Nationalists, even they agree that the unholy conflation of religion and politics has not only hurt the GOP severely in elections, it has caused a schism within the party. Conventional wisdom would dictate that the GOP consider moving away from
candidates who will ensure [religious] divisiveness, after all the election of Barack Obama pretty much made it clear that the majority in the US, including many people of faith, have grown quite tired of the Republican holy war and prefer to avoid the unhealthy comingling of religion and politics.

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A true sign of the Apocalypse: being good for goodness' sake

I'm sitting here this dank day, drinking my yummy home-brewed WAWA coffee and pondering why a bunch of bus signs in DC have people in such a tizzy. Is it that striking a Christmas theme and quoting Santa Claus is Coming to Town makes it part of the Faux News War on Christmas or is it that the reminder that people can (and should) be good because it is inherently the right thing to do as opposed to because G-d (or Santa, for that matter) says so strikes a note of fear in every fundamentalist/orthodox religious wingnut needs to force you to accept? My guess is that it's the latter since Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association informs us that there is absolutely no way to determine what is right or wrong unless G-d, in the form of any bible endorsed by the AFA and like-minded authorities, specifically tells us what is and is not right and wrong.
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world." FoxNews
Ergo anyone who rejects G-d is by default immoral regardless of the goodness of their thoughts and deeds. The only thing worse than rejecting G-d is rejecting Christmas. The religious warriors from the AFA, Daddy Dobson's Focus on the Family and that bastion of legal self-righteousness, the Liberty Counsel are on the patrol to make sure that Christ is the focus during Christmas. To this effect, you are either a friend who supports Christmas as a holiday focused on shopping and presents or a foe who believes that Christmas is a religous holiday that shouldn't be sullied directly by the crass consumerism that marks holiday sales. Any retailer who falls into the latter category best beware, the AFA and the Catholic League (otherwise known as Bill Donahue) will mark their materialism by shopping elsewhere.
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting." FoxNews
I think it's amazing that people get their knickers in a twist because an atheist group put up a billboard questioning G-d's existence. We don't have the same reaction to the plethora of signs, etc. declaring a need to believe in & follow not only G-d, but also in Jesus, which just shows that any protests are nothing more than the rantings of those who are actually so insecure in their faith that they can't bear the fact that anyone has the audacity to disagree with them (in public, no less). The moral of our story is that while "good Christians" will tolerate the fact you have wrong-headed beliefs about G-d and religion, you better keep your effin' mouth shut about it in public; this country will let you live here and practice your heathenism in private but you will be required to support any and all facets of real "Christianity" (this, BTW, does not include Mormonism or Catholicism - except when those churches are needed to join in a political crusade) and adhere to church doctrine so you can be forced to act morally even though your rejection of Jesus will send you directly to Hell.


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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday indeed

They're cleaning up the carnage in Mumbai, a city that seems to get attacked with the frequency of an Israeli border town. For those of you wishing to send condolences, Judaism.com will be forwarding those sent to condolences@judaism.com; you can also contribute to relief efforts in Mumbai through www.ChabadIndia.org

Meanwhile, protests in Bangkok have grown exponentially since the occupation of the Thai PM's residence began in August. Protesters have thwarted police at every turn and taken over 2 airports and now, in what may or may not be yet another coup, taken over Parliament
They surrounded the Parliament building and cut off its electricity, marched on the police headquarters and massed in front of the besieged government’s temporary offices at the city’s secondary airport. By the end of the day, they were reveling in their success. Officials canceled an important session of Parliament and fled from the airport complex, where the prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, and his cabinet have been meeting in recent months to shield themselves from the protests. NYT
Over to Africa, the death-toll in the second day of rioting in Nigeria keeps rising from sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims.

The fighting began as clashes between supporters of the region's two main political parties following the first local election in Jos in more than a decade. But the violence expanded along ethnic and religious fault lines, with Hausas and members of Christian ethnic groups doing battle.

Angry mobs gathered Thursday in Jos after electoral workers failed to publicly post results in ballot collection centers, prompting many onlookers to assume the vote was the latest in a long line of fraudulent Nigerian elections.

Riots flared Friday morning and at least 15 people were killed. Local ethnic and religious leaders made radio appeals for calm on Saturday, and streets were mostly empty by early afternoon. Troops were given orders to shoot rioters on sight. CNN

The fighting in Nigeria comes from battles over souls and economic growth as Muslims and Christians fight to be the religion that controls fertile land, oil reserves and people, primarily in the Middle Belt.

While Mumbai is the mess getting the most press, we are getting some information about what's going on in Thailand and Nigeria, what is not getting covered here in the US is another religious mess in Egypt where a thousand Coptic Christians are holed up in a Cairo church after 20,000 Muslims attacked them with stones and butane cylinders. (h/t)

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If G-d supported equal rights, the 14th amendment would be in the bible

Rasmussen Reports have published results of a poll regarding Americans' beliefs of whether this country as noted in the Pledge of Allegiance actually lives up to the promise of "liberty & Justice for All". According to the
A new poll from Rasmussen Reports indicates that although Americans strongly support the saying of the Pledge of Allegience, less than half of them believe that "the United States is truly the land of liberty and justice for all."

Among those polled, just 46% said they would agree with that statement, while 42% disagreed. Even among white voters, less than half, just 49%, agreed that there is justice for all in America. RawStory
While the poll breaks down the responses by race and political affiliation, the poll did not ask a critical question that would provide some very interesting insight into the real beliefs of "patriotic" Americans. I'm sure I can't be the only one who wonders how many of the people who support reciting the pledge also indicated they don't believe the US is "truly the land of liberty and justice for all." Based on the current political climate in this country, I'm pretty sure many in this category find nothing wrong with the inconsistency.

The Christian Nationalists (otherwise known as the GOP's base) are huge proponents of the pledge and have made it abundantly clear that they do not want and will not tolerate those who do not live in accordance with their religious doctrine being treated as equals to them. Those people refuse to acknowledge any contradiction in reciting the Pledge, preferably in it's current [modified] form, while supporting legislation that goes out of its way to disregard the equal protection clause despite the fact it was written to prevent states from ignoring the Bill of Rights.


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The reason terrorists don't waste their time with Kentucky

The good people of Kentucky elect idiots who feel no need to abide by things most cognitively enabled American's hold sacred and are, obviously, incapable of understanding that which gives them their freedoms
Among the requirements of the 2006 anti-terror law is that a plaque be placed in the department's Emergency Operations Center. Part of the statement on the plaque reads: "The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God."
Of course these are the people who voted George Bush to be President most likely because, even as Governor of Texas, he made it abundantly clear that he had no intentions of respecting the US Constitution or the rights of anyone who does.


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Friday, November 28, 2008

Even more English colonialism hitting the fan (again)

For those of you hiding under a rock, Mumbai is a mess with dead and wounded from attacks on two swanky hotels and a Chabad center. The initial root of this mess, just like the root of "The Troubles" & the Israel-Palestine conflict, is English imperialism and the colonialism that went with it. The split that make one hunk of land into two or more "easier to manage" countries is the hallmark of the continuing conflicts between Israel and her Arab neighbors (for those of you who think Israel alone is the problem, please finally learn some history: the Palestinians did have their own land which was promptly annexed other Arab Nations courtesy of the Arab Leaugue) as well as that tinder box in South Asia (aka, Pakistan and India).

Just as the conflict in the Middle East is between different religious groups (Muslims & Jews), the conflict between India and Pakistan is between religious groups as well (Muslims & Hindus). Those religious tensions are kept simmering and are easily brought to a full boil by anyone who wants to expolit them for power and/or financial gain. Time has a nice description of the start of the conflict:
On the afternoon of March 29, 1857, Mangal Pandey, a handsome, mustachioed soldier in the East India Company's native regiment, attacked his British lieutenant. His hanging a week later sparked a subcontinental revolt known to Indians as the first war of independence and to the British as the Sepoy Mutiny. Retribution was swift, and though Pandey was a Hindu, it was the subcontinent's Muslims, whose Mughal King nominally held power in Delhi, who bore the brunt of British rage. The remnants of the Mughal Empire were dismantled, and five hundred years of Muslim supremacy on the subcontinent was brought to a halt.

Muslim society in India collapsed. The British imposed English as the official language. The impact was cataclysmic. Muslims went from near 100% literacy to 20% within a half-century. The country's educated Muslim élite was effectively blocked from administrative jobs in the government. Between 1858 and 1878, only 57 out of 3,100 graduates of Calcutta University — then the center of South Asian education — were Muslim. While discrimination by both Hindus and the British played a role, it was as if the whole of Muslim society had retreated to lick its collective wounds.

Sixty-one years ago, the country now known as Pakistan was birthed from part of India. The country is a haven to Muslims but has never quite managed to become the enlightened Islamic democracy her forefather's envisioned. Pakistan's provinces are diverse and with a common denominator of the religion of Islam. As we all know, not all denominations and streams of thought of a religion have the same goal and, in that, Islam is no different than the other two Abrahamic religions (Judaism & Christianity) - especially when it comes to religious fundamentalists. When it comes to Muslim [radical] fundamentalism, the religion is not Islam but Jihadism and those forms of Islamofascism have spilled all over the Middle East into Pakistan maintaining an easily exploitable instability that is playing out in India today.

Over the past few years, India has seen many in her lower castes converting to other religions, some to Buddhism, some to Christianity, and most to Islam. Those who have converted to Islam bring with them the memory of discrimination at the hands of higher caste Hindus that fits in well with Muslim resentment of the continued discrimination. India has millions of Muslims but they are still a minority in an over-populated country that, despite considerable economic and technological growth, still bears a resemblance to a third world country (regardless of their objections at being referred to as such). This bodes well for the Jihadists who can and do use continued Indo-Pak tensions to their advantage.

So here we are 151 years later and Mumbai is burning. The attacks took place at India's financial center - at hotels known to be used by Westerners as the terrorists were specifically gunning for Americans & Brits. Since they were already at it, the figured they'd follow the Islamofascist tradition of nailing a bunch of Jews too - that way they can tie the attacks to the Israel-Palistinian conflict and get at least some European sympathy since European's en masse pretty much blame Israel for much of what ails the world (and in saying this, I am not saying that Israel hasn't made some huge blunders but that I can't help but notice she is held to a much higher standard than any other country in the world and that a lot of "blame Israel" still smacks of institutionalized anti-semitism that seems to be a core belief of conservatives and liberals alike). This, folks, is religious fundamentalism at it's worst.

While the group that has laid claim to the attacks is relatively new and unknown, it's unlikely they are not affiliated with a better known organization and it's very likely they received training and other assistance through Jihadist madrassahs and known terrorist organizations in the region. It looks like the Obama administration's will have no choice to follow up on the campaign trail's tough talk about Pakistan with action sooner rather than later.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkeys & boycotts

Not to defame turkeys any more than they've been hurt by being associated with tools of the useless variety but this morning I was reminiscing about the poorly executed media boycott of Paris Hilton and started wondering how MTV manage to foist even more annoying bags of a water and vinegar mix on the world.

Please G-d, make it stop and give the media the good sense not to further publicize the ne're-do-wells that live solely for that coverage. If there are two things I've learned in my life it's that you don't feed gremlins after midnight and you don't feed publicity whores at all.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day Without Gays

I don't know if you're familiar with the movie "A Day Without A Mexican" but the basic premise that that you don't really understand what you have until it's gone and when that something you lose is a whole class of people it can create havoc. In this vein, some great guy named David Craig decided to put together his own real life version of this scenario and put together "A Day Without Gays" The event is set up as a cause on Facebook:
We are calling for a nationwide strike and economic boycott by all members of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered community AND OUR STRAIGHT ALLIES on December 10th, 2008, International Human Rights Day.


Because LGBT workers, business owners, consumers and taxpayers contribute over $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year and should not be treated as second class citizens. See www.witeckcombs.com/news/releases/20080602_buyingpower.pdf

Because general strikes and economic boycotts are a powerful weapon in the history of non-violent protests. See http://www.pbs.org/now/society/boycott.html. For many of those protesters, their actions came at a cost, but they understood that we must be willing to make sacrifices to fight for equal rights, including the right to marry.

Because Civil Unions are only legal in the state that offers them. Civil Unions don't include the 1100 marriage rights and benefits provided by the Federal Government. Separate but not equal is discrimination.

Because every couple in America has to get a marriage certificate from their state, whereas religious ceremonies are optional. No church or religious institution has or ever will be forced to marry anyone.

Because marriage should be a Right for all Americans, regardless of gender, race OR religion.

Because until ALL are equal, NONE are equal.


Strike: call in gay, shut down your business, take the day off.

Boycott: don't buy anything or spend money.

Participate: visit www.daywithoutagay.org for a list of volunteer and/or protest opportunities.

Communicate: we need everyone's support!

Our co-sponsors include:
GAYS ON STRIKE (on Facebook)

WHY THE NAME "A DAY WITHOUT GAYS"? The name was inspired by the film A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN and the nationwide strike in 2006 called A DAY WITHOUT IMMIGRANTS, protesting proposed immigration laws.

Anyone interested it the facts regarding Proposition 8 should go to: http://www.noonprop8.com/about/fact-vs-fiction

Those who oppose SSM for their own personal or religious reasons (which should, in truth, hold no more sway in civil law than my desire to outlaw cheesecake because it skeeves me), need to understand that this is a human rights issue and it is unethical, immoral and, dare I say it, downright unChristian (and anti-Jew to boot) to cloak bigotry under the guise of pretending to protect a social institution.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The 800 lb gorilla in the pulpit

This, Jonah Goldberg, is why Kathleen Parker is absolutely correct in referring to the American Taliban as the "oogedy-boogedy branch" of the GOP.
For the record, I have no problem with arguments about how the GOP has become too religious. I ended my book with pretty much that argument. I opposed Mike Huckabee vociferously because he seemed the quintessential rightwing progressive imbued with a rightwing social gospel. These are all good arguments to make and they have good responses to them. But please drop the nonsense about how the G-O-D people or the Palin people are low brows and beasts. There are low brows and beasts everywhere, on every side of the ideological spectrum. Jonah Goldberg
The Palinistas (aka the people who refuse to accept that the G-d of all 3 Abrahamic religions is the same one) are rather proud of their rejection of anything "intellectual" and show their low browness by attacking those who, unlike Gov. Palin herself, take the time to research and understand issues (and then have the audacity to disagree with the Chritian Orthodoxy) as "elitist". As for being beastly, the fact that hate crimes have increased and children are now discouraged to not only disrespect the President, but also disprespect the Presidency since Obama's win shows an exta degree of borishness from your average partisanship.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apocalypse Now (financial edition)

This week's must read on all things financial apocalypse is Michael Lewis' "The End" on Portfolio.com. Even those of us who are exceedingly jaded had to scratch our heads at Lewis' description of how accurate the average person's opinion of Wall Street guys as a bunch of swindling liars is and how much worse the reality was considering, it seems, they weren't just money-grubbing a-holes, they were actually idiots as well. I've included a smattering to wet your whistle but you should really read the whole thing yourself.

What we always knew:
Harboring suspicions about ­people’s morals and telling investors that companies don’t deserve their capital wasn’t, in the 1990s or at any other time, the fast track to success on Wall Street.
What we suspected, but didn't think was quite as common as it turned out to be:
Lots of firms were lending money to people who shouldn’t have been borrowing it.


But the scarcity of truly crappy subprime-mortgage bonds no longer mattered. The big Wall Street firms had just made it possible to short even the tiniest and most obscure subprime-mortgage-backed bond by creating, in effect, a market of side bets. Instead of shorting the actual BBB bond, you could now enter into an agreement for a credit-default swap with Deutsche Bank or Goldman Sachs. It cost money to make this side bet, but nothing like what it cost to short the stocks, and the upside was far greater.

What left portfolio manager Steve Eisman scratching his head:
But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

PepsiCo's all that AND a bag of [frito-lay] chips

Another day, another frantic message from Don Wildmon. This time he's all aghast that PepsiCo, proud purveyor of Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Quacker Oats, Tropicana & Gatorade products, has donated $500,000 to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

November 14, 2008

Dear Friend,

Pepsi has given Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) a half-million dollars to help push the homosexual agenda in the workplace. PFLAG is a political advocacy group that promotes radical homosexual political causes like same-sex marriage, hate-crime laws, and gay adoption.

Pepsi has a long tradition of financial support for homosexual groups. According to Jacqueline Millan, director of PepsiCo Corporate Contributions, "We are delighted to continue our partnership with PFLAG...(in) promoting the necessary message of inclusion to untapped groups...and that is a crucial step toward building a healthy working environment."

Despite the fact that 30 states have passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, Pepsi continues to support the efforts by same-sex groups pushing for homosexual marriage.

AFA wrote Pepsi on October 14 and again on October 29 asking the company to remain neutral in the culture war. Pepsi didn't care enough to respond to the AFA letters. Pepsi's lack of response indicates the company plans to continue support for the homosexual agenda.
Good Christians (and Catholics who "real Christians" think are about as Christian as Mormons) are to boycott Pepsi products because the donation will be used to support the Straight for Equality program aka "The Gay Agenda". As we all know, supporting anything that the Christian Nationalist Coalition and their minions think is wrong will send you straight to Hell. .. where I will meet you with a huge bottle of Mountain Dew Code Red and a bag of Cheetos.

Please join me in thanking PepsiCo for their efforts on behalf of civil rights and common courtesy for all.

Ms. Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman
Pepsico, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Rd.
Purchase, NY 10577-1444
Phone: 1-800-433-2652
or: (914) 253-2000

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's good for the religious goose is good for another religion's gander

SCOTUS, which has ruled that Ten Commandments displays on government ground do promote a religious message, will be hearing Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, to determine if the presence of the aforementioned commandments on the Utah city's public space means that members of other religions have the right to display their codes on the same ground. "Christians" are not pleased with the prospects of displays from other religions sullying up their commandments and are fighting the possibility of sharing space based on some half-assed argument that allowing other religions equal time under the first amendment would require the country to allow every crackpot to put up a display that expresses the opposite view of any legitimate display:
Liberty Counsel attorney Mat Staver told OneNewsNow that Summum was a "cult that has some kind of Egyptian religion associated with it." Staver contended that al-Qaeda would be allowed to erect a companion monument to the donated 9/11 memorial, or a "statue of tyranny" to stand alongside the Statue of Liberty. "It would require, for example, if someone donates to the Vietnam Memorial, which in fact has been made by private funds, that someone else could come and donate something that is contrary to the theme of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC." RawStory
The Seven aphorisms, according to Summum are:
and are meant as a companion to the Ten Commandments. In fact, according to the religion:
Moses in the Old Testament was given both a "lower" and "higher" knowledge from a divine being. The lower knowledge was embodied in the more widely known Ten Commandments, while the higher was expressed in what Summum refers to as the "Seven Aphorisms." According to Summum, when Moses first descended from Mount Sinai, he had with him the higher law inscribed on stone tablets. However, the undeveloped condition of the Israelites prevented them from understanding. Moses returned to Mount Sinai and returned with another set of tablets containing the lower law that was much easier for the people to comprehend. Wikipedia
G-d forgive me, but I know I am not the only one who read about this and immediately remembered there were originally 15 commandments

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