Browsed by
Month: February 2010

Who Will Pat Robertson Blame for the Chilean Earthquake?

Who Will Pat Robertson Blame for the Chilean Earthquake?

Who will Pat Robertson blame for the earthquake that struck Chile last night? 

Will it be liberal judges?

Will it be homosexuals?

Will it be feminists?

Will it be evolutionists?

Will it be the United Nations?

Will it be Voodoo Devil Dealmakers?

Will it be the abortionists?

And if a big tsunami strikes the beaches of Hawaii and causes death and destruction, will he blame Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated?

Somebody’s got to take the blame, and it sure as Hell won’t be the nuts that follow the wacked out teachings of Reverend Pat.

Kicking Ass for Jesus

Kicking Ass for Jesus

via the Lapham’s Quarterly Roundtable blog post, “Turn the Other Cheek.”

The gentlemen boxers of the Young Men’s Christian Association would have been pleased to make the acquaintance of this new incarnation of faith-based fight clubs: a church cum mixed martial arts facility in Nashville called Xtreme Ministries, profiled in this week’s New York Times, which practices a combination of bare-knuckle fighting, wrestling, and kick-boxing and whose motto is “Where Feet, Fist and Faith Collide.”

Leonard-Lane Kicking Ass for Jesus
Leonard Lane, left, fighting for Xtreme Ministries, a church that doubles as a martial arts academy. photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

The Roundtable post connects this new rougher and tougher image of Jesus and his disciples to the Muscular Christianity movement that arrived in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th Century.  They thought that Christian leaders had pretty much morphed the image of Jesus into a woman during the previous century, and they wanted to turn him into a man again.

One of the movement’s followers was Dr. R. warren Conant who wrote a book titled The Virility of Christ in which he describes his image of Jesus:

When Christ met a man, that man however dull knew instinctively that he stood in the presence of no ordinary person. There were the commanding pose and carriage, the piercing eye, the thoughtful brow; every movement, look and gesture speaking of reserve power, physical, mental, and moral. To an ordinary man the first impression would be overawing, to an extraordinary man a challenge, were it not for the kindly smile which immediately softened the expression; the strong, resonant voice vibrating with sympathy and good-fellowship; the words so fitly chosen for each one’s case.

That Christ’s voice was resonant and of great carrying power was a necessary consequence of his practice of preaching in the open air to audiences of five thousand and upward. And that proves another fact in regard to Christ’s physical appearance —big lung capacity and therefore a well developed torso.

There’s a website dedicated to this new incarnation of Muscular Christians called Anointed Fighter, and according to their “About Us” page:

Anointed Fighter (AF) recognizes that Mixed Martial Arts has become a cultural phenomenon as the fastest growing spectator sport in the world. AF desires to reach the MMA world and its culture with the message of salvation by providing hope, encouragement and truth in a relevant way while breaking down misconceptions of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

AF envisions a time when every MMA enthusiast around the world will be impacted by its ministry through licensed merchandise, print publications, multimedia productions and short-term outreach events that will lead to long-term, self-sustaining discipleship programs.

And in the Anointed Fighter Handbook, you will find:

We are God’s anointed and together we will enjoy eternal life. Until then, we must step inside the cage of life and battle the enemy. Our enemy is a cunning creature. He knows how to punch and kick us off the path of righteousness. He attempts to choke out the light of the Lord in our lives.  We can tap out or we can fight him.

Jesus never tapped out man, and you can wear that message proudly if you buy this t-shirt:

Jesus-Didnt-Tap Kicking Ass for Jesus

So you see, contrary to that soft-focus image of a meek philosopher Jesus you probably have in your head…

JesusPortrait-sm Kicking Ass for Jesus

…Jesus was not a wimp.  Jesus was a big, strong, loud, barrel-chested man…

Jesus-in-the-ring-sm Kicking Ass for Jesus

…and, if need be, he could kick your ass.

Repent or else!

Killing People is Not Easy

Killing People is Not Easy

Well it’s easy enough to pull the trigger on a sniper rifle, drop a bomb from an airplane, or even launch artillery into a house full of Iraqi insurgents, but it’s not so easy to live with what you see when you enter the house to survey the results and find out you’ve made a terrible mistake.  So writes Army lieutenant Shannon Meehan for The New York Times:

I thought we had struck enemy fighters, but I was wrong. A father, mother and their children had been huddled inside.

The feelings of disbelief that initially filled me quickly transformed into feelings of rage and self-loathing.  The following weeks, months and years would prove that my life was forever changed.

In fact, it’s been nearly three years, and I still cannot remove from my mind the image of that family gathered together in the final moments of their lives.  I can’t shake it.  It simply lingers.

While reading this column today, I was thinking about the conversation I had with my ten-year-old son during a battle scene in The Sand Pebbles.  The movie stars  Steve McQueen who plays Jake Holman, a Navy engineer assigned to a gunboat cruising China’s Yangtze River in 1926 as the Nationalist revolution led by Chiang Kai-shek breaks out.  The battle scene takes place near the end of the film when the Navy boat must get past a blockade of junks set up by the Chinese revolutionaries.  After much shooting and hand-to-hand combat to clear the center junk, Holman uses an axe to the cut the thick ropes that string the boats together.  While he’s chopping at the ropes, a Chinese fighter sneaks up on him with a machete and raises it for the killing blow.  Holman catches a glimpse of  him approaching and moves just in time for the machete weilder to miss his mark.  The blade hits Holman’s helmet and glances away from him.  He then swings his axe head right into the gut of the Chinese man who doubles over and dies.

Holman stands there with his axe hanging by his side staring at the dying man while his boat, just a few yards behind him, begins to advance past the blockade.  At that point, my son said, “What’s he doing?  Why is he just standing there?”  All I could say was something like, “Well, it’s not easy to kill a man.  It’s a terrible thing to take another man’s life.  That’s what he’s feeling, and it doesn’t feel good to him.”  As I’m saying this, Holman shake his head, shoulders his axe, and gets on board the gun boat.

Meehan wrote about that feeling in his column.

Killing enemy combatants comes with its own emotional costs.  On the surface, we feel as soldiers that killing the enemy should not affect us — it is our job, after all.  But it is still killing, and on a subconscious level, it changes you.  You’ve killed.  You’ve taken life. What I found, though, is that you feel the shock and weight of it only when you kill an enemy for the first time, when you move from zero to one.  Once you’ve crossed that line, there is little difference in killing 10 or 20 or 30 more after that.

…The deaths that I caused also killed any regard I had for my own life.  I felt that I did not deserve something that I had taken from them. I fell into a downward spiral, doubting if I even deserved to be alive.  The value, or regard, I once had for my own life dissipated.

My son plays a series of computer war games that are mostly based on historical events.  In these games, he builds villages and farms to supply them with food and materials, and he must also build armies to protect them from enemies that want to take what he’s built.  Battles ensue, and one side or the other ultimately wins.  The games do teach a bit of history, but they don’t delve into the morality of war and allow for contemplation about the victims.

I’ll share this piece with him and hope that it makes him think a little about what might be going on in the minds of the tiny little warriors on his computer screen.

1984 Arrives in 2010

1984 Arrives in 2010

School districts across the country are supplying students with laptops for students to use both at school and home.

Unfortunately, one school district has decided to use the laptops as a means of invading the privacy of the students and their families.  It is alleged that the Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania , used the embedded camera as a way to monitor the behavior and activities of students.

According to TechNewsWorld:

What sparked the discovery was Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko’s assertion in early November that Harriton High School student Blake Robbins had been “engaging in improper behavior in his home,” the filing explains. Matsko allegedly used as evidence of that behavior a photograph taken by the webcam in Robbins’ computer.

Robbins’ father then confirmed with the school that the district had the ability to remotely activate the webcams in the laptops it gives its students. Documentation accompanying the laptops, the family charged, made no reference to that ability.

“As the laptops at issue were routinely used by students and family members while at home, it is believed and therefore averred that many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress,” the filing states.

The functionality to monitor computer use as discussed in this article is not unusual, and is well known to those who use their employer’s computers.  What makes unusual is the use of the webcam to capture images of the user, without prior notice,  whether or not the user is at the keyboard.

As I write this I keep looking at my own webcam staring at me.  I never use it, but can’t help but think what it could capture if someone had control over it…

The Very Rich are Not Paying Their Fair Share of Taxes

The Very Rich are Not Paying Their Fair Share of Taxes

Hello readers.  Do you all remember this post from March of last year about how the richest of the rich in our country were taking the lion’s share of all the country’s income?  That post includes charts that shows just how much of the country’s growth in incomes from 2002 through 2006 the top earners kept for themselves.  You might want to go back and take a look at those charts, but be warned – they’re not pretty.

And 2007 wasn’t any prettier.  Some new IRS data was released this week for 2007, and guess what?  The rich got even richer!  From BusinessWeek:

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) — The average income reported by the 400 highest-earning U.S. households grew to almost $345 million in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier, Internal Revenue Service statistics show.

The figures for 2007, the last year of an economic expansion, show that average income reported by the top 400 earners more than doubled from $131.1 million in 2001. That year, Congress adopted tax cuts urged by then-President George W. Bush that Democrats say disproportionately benefits the wealthy.

Each household in the top 400 of earners paid an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest since the agency began tracking the data in 1992, the statistics show. Their average effective tax rate was about half the 29.4 percent in 1993, the first year of President Bill Clinton’s administration, when taxes were increased.

The statistics underscore “two long-term trends: that income at the very top has exploded and their taxes have been cut dramatically,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington research group that supports increasing taxes on high-income individuals.

So next time you hear a Teabagger going all crazy about huge deficits and high taxes, you might want to recite a few facts from this article and some more from last year’s post about how the wealthy are grossly undertaxed.  Had they not received trillions in tax cuts from the Bush Republicans, we might even have collected enough to pay for the two wars that are still going on. 

For more about how today’s deficit problems are the result of the tax-law changes enacted under the Bush Administration, read this article on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website:

Some of President Obama’s critics and political opponents have launched a line of argument that Obama is mostly to blame for the large federal budget deficits projected for the coming decade and that his Administration’s role in swelling deficits and debt dwarfs that of the previous administration. [1] The critics cite what they present as proof: the fact that the deficit this year and in the years ahead will be much larger than the average deficits under President George W. Bush and that the increase in the national debt thus will be much larger under Obama than Bush.

But asserting that the deficits that lie ahead are primarily the result of policies enacted since President Obama took office is Orwellian. It stands truth on its head.

Republicans have never had any regard for the truth.  They’ve always twisted things upside down, inside out, and backwards; and they’ve almost always gotten away with it.  They get away with it because they own all the mainstream media outlets, or because the American people are uninformed and very gullible.  Or both.  This time, don’t let them get away with it. Spread some truth around.

Supreme Court’s Corporate Personhood Cases Built on False Pretenses

Supreme Court’s Corporate Personhood Cases Built on False Pretenses

A couple of weeks after the far-right activist Supreme Court erroneously ruled 5-4 that corporations have many of the same rights as living breathing citizens of this country, I finally found an article by Thom Hartmann that I remembered reading over seven years ago.  I found the article via an article on the Project Censored website

It was back in 1886 that a Supreme Court decision (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company) ostensibly led to corporate personhood and free speech rights, thereby guaranteeing protections under the 1st and 14th amendments.  However, according to Thom Hartmann, the relatively mundane court case never actually granted these personhood rights to corporations. (cut to Hartmann article)

[Excerpt from a letter penned by Abraham Lincoln] “As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.  I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”

Lincoln’s suspicions were prescient.  In the 1886 Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state tax assessor, not the county assessor, had the right to determine the taxable value of fenceposts along the railroad’s right-of-way.

However, in writing up the case’s headnote – a commentary that has no precedential status – the Court’s reporter, a former railroad president named J.C. Bancroft Davis, opened the headnote with the sentence: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Oddly, the court had ruled no such thing.  As a handwritten note from Chief Justice Waite to reporter Davis that now is held in the National Archives said:  “we avoided meeting the Constitutional question in the decision.”  And nowhere in the decision itself does the Court say corporations are persons.

Nonetheless, corporate attorneys picked up the language of Davis’s headnote and began to quote it like a mantra.  Soon the Supreme Court itself, in a stunning display of either laziness (not reading the actual case) or deception (rewriting the Constitution without issuing an opinion or having open debate on the issue), was quoting Davis’s headnote in subsequent cases.  While Davis’s Santa Clara headnote didn’t have the force of law, once the Court quoted it as the basis for later decisions its new doctrine of corporate personhood became the law.

… and from a few paragraphs earlier in the Hartmann article:

Corporations are non-living, non-breathing, legal fictions. They feel no pain. They don’t need clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe, or healthy food to consume. They can live forever. They can’t be put in prison. They can change their identity or appearance in a day, change their citizenship in an hour, rip off parts of themselves and create entirely new entities. Some have compared corporations with robots, in that they are human creations that can outlive individual humans, performing their assigned tasks forever.

Isaac Asimov, when considering a world where robots had become as functional, intelligent, and more powerful than their human creators, posited three fundamental laws that would determine the behavior of such potentially dangerous human-made creations. His Three Laws of Robotics stipulated that non-living human creations must obey humans yet never behave in a way that would harm humans.

And from there I offer you two frames from today’s edition of This Modern World:

TMW-Corporate-American-2-3 Supreme Court's Corporate Personhood Cases Built on False Pretenses

Click on the frames or here to read the whole comic.  Go on now…

Friday Night Videos – Scott H. Biram, Nick Cave, and Bobby Bare, Jr.

Friday Night Videos – Scott H. Biram, Nick Cave, and Bobby Bare, Jr.

Scott H. Biram is performing at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard tonight. Who? Scott H. Biram!!!

From his website:

Rock ‘n’ Roll ain’t pretty and neither is Scott H. Biram.  The self proclaimed ‘Dirty Old One Man Band’ successfully, and sometimes violently, lashes together blues, hillbilly and country precariously to raucous punk and godless metal. Biram ain’t no dour ass singer/songwriter either, sweetly strumming songs about girls with big eyes and dusty highways.  HELL NO!!!  His singing, yodeling, growling, leering and brash preachin’ and hollerin’ is accompanied by sloppy riffs and licks from his 1959 Gibson guitar and pounding backbeat brought forth by his amplified left foot.  The remainder of this one-man band consists of an unwieldy combination of beat-up amplifiers and old microphones strung together by a tangled mess of guitar cables.  Years of non-stop touring have honed his assault to a fine edge; his wide-eyed throw downs in the First Church of Ultimate Fanaticism routinely lead giddy followers to a fiery baptism.  Scott H. Biram wont die.  On May 11th, 2003, one month after being hit head-on by an 18-wheeler at 75 MPH, he took the stage at The Continental Club in Austin, TX in a wheel chair – I.V. still dangling from his arm. With 2 broken legs, a broken foot, a broken arm and 1 foot less of his lower intestine, Biram unleashed his trademark musical wrath. When Scott H. Biram took the stage at his 2004 SXSW festival showcase right after Kris Kristofferson he was quoted as growling “They said that was a hard act to follow….I’m a hard act to follow motherfuckers!!”   The stunned crowd looked on.

speaking of bad mutherfuckers…

and since Valentines Day is on Sunday…

Corporate Health Care Reaps Billions from Recession and Unemployment

Corporate Health Care Reaps Billions from Recession and Unemployment

While tens of millions of hard working Americans struggled to keep their jobs and pay their mortgages and ever increasing health insurance premiums, the for-profit health insurance industry increased their profits by billions over the last year.  From today’s Seattle Times:

WASHINGTON — As the nation struggled last year with rising health-care costs and a recession, the five largest health-insurance companies racked up combined profits of $12.2 billion, up 56 percent over 2008, according to a new report.

Based on company financial reports for 2009 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the report said insurers WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna, Aetna and Humana covered 2.7 million fewer people than they did the previous year.

The report also said three of the five insurers cut the proportion of premiums they spent on customers’ medical care, committing relatively more to salaries, administrative expenses and profits.

Prepared by Health Care for America Now, a coalition of liberal advocacy groups and labor unions, the report was aimed at bolstering the drive by Democrats to complete work on a health-care overhaul, which insurers have vigorously opposed.

Industry representatives criticized the report’s approach, noting that 2008 was a bad year financially across many industries, skewing the 2009 comparison.

“It is disingenuous to look at the profits at one company today compared to where it was in the depth of a recession,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s Washington, D.C.-based lobbying arm.

While all five companies indeed reported lower profits between 2007 and 2008, a Seattle Times review of financial statements shows that the profits of three of them — WellPoint, Cigna and Humana — were higher in 2009 than in 2007, before the recession.  Outside factors such as the sales of assets can affect those numbers, however.

Industry analyst Sheryl Skolnick, a senior vice president at CRT Capital Group, said many of the insurance companies likely would benefit from more customers.

But they are driven to increase prices for their products to satisfy investors, which in turn drives away more and more customers.

“It is a terrible thing to run your business for Wall Street,” Skolnick said. “It creates very bad incentives, and it ultimately prevents you from doing the thing that is in the best long-term interest of your business. … There is no way that as long as these businesses are publicly traded, they can have the best interest of their customers at heart.”

Sounds to me like the greedy corporate health insurance providers could use a little competition from a lower-priced, more efficient, government-run plan.  So why is the Public Option off the table? 

Only answer I can come up with is to make the rich richer.

Bush Billboard: Miss Me Yet?

Bush Billboard: Miss Me Yet?

Bush-Miss-Me-Billboard Bush Billboard:  Miss Me Yet?


Do I miss a president who had no regard for the Constitution?

Do I miss a president who gave away trillions in tax cuts to the super rich?

Do I miss a president who started two wars and didn’t finish one of them?

Do I miss a president who authorized torture?

Do I miss a president who lied about wiretapping U.S. Citizens without warrants?

Do I miss a president who spoke English like it was his second language?

Do I miss a president who appointed two Supreme Court Justices that built the majority opinion that says corporations are people?

Do I miss “heh heh heh…?” (well, a little maybe.)

Do I miss a president with a callous disregard for those less fortunate than himself and “his base?”

Do I miss a man with the morals of a laughing hyena?

No!!!  I don’t miss him one little bit.  In fact, I miss a migraine headache more than I miss him. 

Minnesota Public Radio story here and here.

Washington Post story here.