Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't Tick Off a Crow

Else you may be in for a very long payback period.

Scientists have determined that wild crows have a grudge gene --- something that allows the crow to remember individual people & harass them for years. Ok. So maybe I went overboard with the grudge gene terminology but these birds take payback to the extreme.

I bet my mother-in-law is linked in the evolutionary chain to crows somehow ...

Here's the NPR article. Make sure to listen to the audio.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Strep Throat Killed Mozart?

Interesting article. Strep killed off The Musical Master. The tour guides in Salzburg said Mozart was sickly all his life because he traveled around from age 6 doing music gigs & it was a cold, damp winter when he finally died. Strep. Next time my wife tells me it is just strep I'm gonna remind her that if The Musical Master can succumb, imagine what it can do to a guy that can barely play the radio.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pagan Group in Park Told Must Leave

Wonder if the Alliance Defense Fund (previous post about the ADF) will come to the aid of this Pagan group ... doubt it. No, make that I am certain it won't happen.

Picture this: local park. Sunny day. Group of Christians gather & sing a few verses of Amazing Grace & then they pray. A brief homily is offered. Another chorus or two. An offering is taken --- must be a Baptist group. No one calls the cops.

Now let's change the scene a tad: local park. Sunny day. Group of Odinists --- an ancient Pagan faith --- is celebrating the harvest. They raise their arms. Sing & dance a bit. Suddenly the cops are called. Neighbors are claiming there is a White Supremacist group in the park doing all sorts of evil.

Well, it happened in Bakersfield, CA, according to KERO News.

The cops made them leave the park. Needs to be a complaint filed on that one. Public park & they have the right to assemble just like a Christian group would.

I'll just shake my head & wonder if the concept of our first freedom is even understood at the most basic level. How today's religious minority is treated will be how today's majority faith will be treated when the minority gains a larger status one day. How quickly we forget that Baptists were once the persecuted minority.

Now that the witchdoctors have taken over the faith powerhouses & made them into political action committees ... never mind.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alliance Defense Fund Argues the Bible is Not a Sectarian Text

I kid you not. 

The Alliance Defense Fund is arguing that the Bible is not a sectarian text in Idaho. Therefore the Bible was not excluded in the state's Constitution when it banned religious texts in its schools.

I know. It sounds as kooky as kooky can get, but we're talking about the Alliance Defense Fund here, the same group that tried to spin their trial loss in Wilson County, TN, as a win. They even issued a press release saying the ACLU lost & the ADF won, despite the judge's ruling for the parents whom the ACLU represented on 5 of the 6 complaints. Needless to say, the ADF is very good at --- er, uh --- playing fast & lose with the truth. (See previous post.)

So while I normally wouldn't be surprised given the ADF's propensity to fib, I was quite aghast to see their latest claim. 

Last week the Idaho Public Charter School Commission ruled the Bible cannot be used as a text book. According to the news article in the Idaho Press Tribune, the Commission ruled the state's Constitution "expressly' forbids the use of religious texts. In fact,  Art. IX, Sec. 6 of the state's constitution says: No books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character shall be used or introduced in any schools established under the provisions of this article.... 

Hmmm. Looks pretty obvious to me. That should settle the matter. The Bible is quite obviously a sectarian text. But the Alliance Defense Fund wants so badly the Bible to be taught on the public's dime that it is willing to deny the sacredness of the text. In other words, the ADF is willing to deny the Word of God so it can be taught in the public schools.

Denigrating the text in order to get it placed in the public school? 

I resent that. I flatly reject the ADF's claim. How dare they. 

If the ADF wants to claim the Bible is not an inspired text & is of no worth other than that of secular literature or history, that is their problem. But I resent my faith being trampled by their claim that the Bible should be treated as something common in public schools. It is not. It is a revered text & should be treated as such, not as something common & left to the untrained & non-spiritual insights of a public school teacher. The Bible is too lofty to be left to the gov't. Since the gov't has a nasty habit of soiling everything else it touches, I wonder if the ADF realizes the danger they just placed the Holy Bible.

The end never justifies the means. In this case, the ADF is mistreating the Bible, & showing themselves desperate in making every crazy argument just to get the Bible in the public school classroom. 

I used to fear how a public school would treat the great truthes of the Bible if the gov't ever got the chance to teach it. Now I see the mistreatment the ADF is giving the Bible & wonder if the public school might actually be more respectful of the text.

Or maybe the ADF has demonstrated once again the complete lunacy of the Religious (not) Right, making themselves out to be my faith's own worst enemy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama White House to Track Gov't Website Users?

I've had an email in my inbox for several days but have not had time to think about it. The ACLU has concerns about the possible change in policy whereby the gov't will begin delivering cookies to computers that go to gov't websites.

OK. So what's the problem?

Well, first, that is not what the rules allows. The current rules don't allow gov't to track users who access gov't websites. Nor should they. That is an invasion of privacy. It is nobody's business if I go to a public website anymore than it is the gov't business where I go to church.

Second, the potential for abuse is just too great. Watch V for Vendetta or Pleasantville & you'll get an idea of the problems that can happen. Better yet, just read about how the Patriot Act is being used.

The biggest problem, however, is not any of the potential breaches of privacy but the very real disregard for the Constitutional protections. If the Constitutional principles are skirted, it becomes easier to cross over that line at some point in the future. At some point it won't be tracking a computer but tracking what books one reads; what sermons one listens to; with whom one discusses politics; or even what a person's politics may be.

I will grant that the official line is that the tracking cookies won't be quite as sinister. According to the UK's Register, the cookies will only be used to better serve the user. While that makes sense & is a great goal, we all know the potential for abuse is just too great. It is simply not a chance we can take.

I also find it quite amusing that the Extreme Right Wing is now on the same side as the ACLU & other groups that protect civil liberty. When the ACLU was condemning the spying on Americans without a warrant, or listening in on phone calls, or snooping personal emails or bank accounts, the Extremists were arguing the Constitutional privacy protections & US laws didn't apply. But now that a Democrat is wanting to simply use cookies to track usage in order to help the user get the information he wants, suddenly the uproar is deafening.

I will be the first to admit the Extreme Right has a good point here & the gov't policy should not be changed. Privacy is a first freedom, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. My challenge to the Extreme Right is to be consistent. The ACLU has held the same position all along. Will the Extreme Right admit their hypocrisy? I doubt it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Demand Accountability for Unlawful Torture Practices

There is no excuse. We either follow our laws or we don't.

There is a system of justice that we believe in. Frankly, it s difficult for the US to present itself as the emblem of democracy when it practices a kangaroo approach to justice. The job of enemy propagandists is easier than it ought to be as they seek to paint the US as a phony democracy. When we won't even abide by our own rules of justice or international law about torture, & then do things that look like our investigation is all a farce, we begin to look like the very enemy we are fighting.

Francis Schaffer & the Extreme Right Wing

'Bout time somebody said it. Thanks to Bruce Prescott for the info.

Ann Falling, Tulsa Theocrat in Waiting

Tulsa Mayoral Candidate Wants Christian Creationist Exhibit at Zoo

We just can't make this stuff up.

The candidate for Tulsa's top job wants a Christian creationism display in the Tulsa zoo because she feels it was shot down in 2005 & it needs another visitation.

Falling also believes that all problems in the town are the direct result of people not being her brand of Christianity.

Then she pronounced that the people she will place in power will be those that go to church & honor God.

To her credit, she did say she would reach out to people who didn't hold her interpretation of faith but she didn't say anything about letting those people have any position of authority; only church going people will be able to keep Tulsa from falling into the abyss, according to Falling.

For a more details on Ann Falling's views, check out Buzzflash.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gale Storm, April 5, 1922 - June 27, 2009

I remember Gale Storm (Wiki Link; Official Site) from seeing her on TV when I was a kid. She was still popular on some TV shows in the 60s & 70s & that's where I remember her, though I understand she was quite the star in the 50s.

I just learned of her passing earlier this year. We'll miss her. She was, indeed, a classy lady.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Greece, NY, Town Board Prayer Lawsuit

Federal Court To Hear Arguments In Case Challenging City-Sponsored Prayer In Greece, N.Y. Americans United

Another city gov't having a prayer meeting before conducting the business they were elected to do.

This is not all that complicated: if the elected politicians want to pray, they should pray at home or as a group privately before the meeting. Otherwise, they are trivializing the act of worship that prayer is. Secondly, the tax payer is footing the bill for the meeting & those elected leaders are to conduct gov't business, not conduct a brief worship event. Thirdly, not all citizens are represented in those prayers & it is not fair their tax dollar support another faith.

Madison's Remonstrance is quite clear on this matter, though I don't think the Domionists really care.

2009 Version of Remonstrance

We have to be ready to fight against those theocrats as soon as they raise their ugly head. We did that with the Revolution, didn't we? The patriots didn't wait until some things were already set in place to raise a stink. No way. We didn't want those sort of things to get any foothold. We saw what it would do if we let it grow & so we nipped it in the bud. We fought too hard to forget that lesson. Anyone should be able to see that if we let Christianity get special treatment, the next step would be to let one denomination become the leader of it all. Before long, it is a certain group in that denomination who calls the shots & their interpretation gets to be the Rule; everyone else gets left out in the cold & has to conform. If gov't can let 3 pennies of tax payer money --- just 3 cents --- go to give special treatment to one religion, tomorrow it may be a different religion. Allowing one means allowing others to do the same to us & we won't like it when the tables are turned. Isn't that just obvious?

1785 Madison's Version

Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entagled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is it about FLA & Theocrats?

Certain states are known for certain things: VA is for lovers comes to mind.

Now some folks in FLA are trying to make sure the state made famous only because of air conditioning & SEC football has another tag --- theocratic leanings.

Let's start with Kissimmee. Last week the city council had an intelligent change of heart & decided not to add In God We Trust to the city's new logo design. Nothing like a logo to get the old Dominionist blood flowing. But after the second reading of the proposal, the public & business backlash convinced the city council that such overt displays of anti-first amendment tendencies were not good for the town's image. Commissioner Art Otero still wants God in the city's logo but his comments in the Orlando Sentinel were a tad over-the-top & made the city look, well, a bit backward. Ortero said he feared the heathens were taking over & that "liberal postures such as homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and the legalization of marijuana" would soon overtake church potlucks as the center of attention.


Then there is Santa Rosa County Pace High School principal Frank Lay. A real believer in the rule of law, that Principal Lay, who has cultivated a system of education at Pace High that has led to the school being labeled The Baptist Academy according to the Pensacola News Journal. Even after the huge legal fees & a judge's order to stop endorsing religious activities at the school, Principal Lay decided he was above the law & decided official prayer & religious activities were necessary anyway.

When will Godslingers realize that the tax payer money represents more than one faith?

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

America Needs a New National Anthem

Today I will say it. Make no mistake about it. I want to make sure I'm saying this in the most emphatic way possible: I can't stand America's national anthem.

There. Finally it is out in the open & maybe some other people will start open discussions about what they've privately thought for a long, long time.

America's national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, is rich in history & meaning & all that, but it has outlived its purpose. Its hard to sing: everyone struggles with it (unless you a trained vocalist blessed with pipes) & hardly anybody knows the words. The tune is really, really hard to carry. Really.

Worst of all, it's boring.

There is nothing that makes you want to jump to your feet, wave the flag, slap high fives with your buddies or kiss the pretty girls (like you need an excuse for that anyway, but let's not waste a good opportunity, ya know). It is just kinda there & is nothing all that special.

America is the land of the free & the home of the brave. The land where everyone is a first class citizen, with the free scotch & the complimentary warm towels.

The US of A deserves an anthem that makes the rest of the world jealous.

So I propose we change our national anthem to something with some style, pizazz & soul. Since Sweet Home Alabama is about single state & the other 49 would be ticked off, that one is off the list. Pity. James Brown's Living in America would really kick butt over any other anthem, but I think there might be a wee bit of opposition from the more prudish. Maybe Queen's We Will Rock You is available ...

I found this video below. It is from Celtic Thunder (
official site; Wiki link). The song is Ireland's Call, the anthem for the Irish National Rugby team. Sure, it is not the national anthem but just look at the reaction to the audience. That's what I'm talking about.

This, my fellow Americans, makes you wanna cheer. It makes you wanna stand up, applaud, poke your chest out & say I'm proud. Somthing like this is what we need as America's new national anthem.

So who's with me?

Michael Kinsley's op-ed piece

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Orly Taitz & WolrdNutDaily Confounded Again

The Birthers have a spokesperson in the form of Dr. Orly Taitz. She is nuts.

They also have a world wide web site that advocates for themselves: WorldNetDaily. That's strike two against the Birthers.

Then there is strike three: the people that believe such conspiracy theories. These people will believe anything, no matter how outlandish, as long as it advances their political agenda. Truth is left out. They just want to get rid of all Democrats, Obama in particular, Republicans that are not extreme right wing (to the point of Fascism) & anyone else that is not in complete agreement with them.

So when Orly Taitz came out with her latest crackpot evidence as reported at WorldNutDaily, we knew it was just a matter of time before the truth surfaced. has the latest proof that some people will believe anything. The truth is, Taitz was duped. The Birthers were shown to grab any grain of lunacy as long as it points to what they so desperately want to be true. And WorldNutDaily has, again, demonstrated it is no more legitamate journalism as was Pravda.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Falwell Telling a Fib?

Sandhya Bathija's latest blog post at the AU's Wall of Separation presents an interesting question: did Rev. Jonathan Falwell intentionally tell a lie in order to get a expressly Christian prayer before Congress?

The long & short of it is this: Falwell was invited to give the opening prayer at a Congressional session last week. Fine. No problem. The chaplain's office reviews all prayers beforehand to ensure it is non-partisan & non-sectarian. Fine again. Not a problem. Makes sense to avoid politics in an exercise such as this. It also is in everyone's best interest that the prayers be non-sectarian to prevent bickering over theology when the purpose of the session is to bicker over running the government.

So when Falwell presented his written version (as is on the Congressional House chaplain's website) it ended with in your precious name we pray. Amen.

But what did Falwell do? He made the prayer sectarian & instead ended the prayer
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

There are several possibilities here. First, Falwell could have done this intentionally in order give an expressly Christian prayer before Congress. That would mean he lied by presenting a written version he never intended to deliver. Second, he fully intended to pray the prayer he had submitted before hand but changed his mind at the last minute. That means instead of having integrity & telling the chaplain's office he couldn't abide by the rules, he opened the door to allow all other faith groups to give their sectarian prayers before Congress. Thirdly, it is possible Falwell simply ended his prayer out of force of habit. That means it was an unintentional slip.

I would hope it is the latter. The other two options would call into question Falwell's character & I don't want to believe that someone I actually admire would stoop that low. (Maybe admire is not the right word. Perhaps have high hopes for is a better phrase. While I'm sure he is a great guy, I am gravely concerned about his Revisionist version of history & how he wants to apply that to the political sphere.)

That only leaves the last option. It was simply a mistake. The problem is Falwell stated that he spent a great deal of time praying about the words I would use in my congressional prayer because, above all else, I wanted Christ to be magnified in that place. (Liberty University news article.) So if Falwell spent so much time going over what he was going to say, he sure wasn't very careful about getting it right. And since he did say that his aim was to make it expressly Christian, I am worried that this may have been intentional. Note that the Liberty News site does have the ending phrase in Jesus name & that means somebody at Liberty knew what was said, though it certainly didn't match the prior submission to the Chaplain's office.

And then I read Falwell's op-ed piece at WorldNetDaily & realize the guy did this intentionally. He lied. He flat out lied. He intentionally submitted something he never intended on following. Not only does that violate one of the Big Ten, it is not in keeping the ethic of Christ. News flash: the end does not justify the means.

As I read more of the op-ed piece, I realize that the propaganda of the Revisionists is still going strong. Falwell gives some quotes that were taken out of historical context & even goes so far as to give the tired, old & debunked myth that there was a church in the halls of Congress. Sorry, but that means either Falwell is intentionally lying or is showing his lack of historical research --- any history major worth his salt knows that is simply not true. I remember going over that myth while in college --- not all that complicated. (See Chris Rodd's excellent piece at Talk to Action that debunks the myth.)

The reality is that if we allow Christ's name to be praised in the legislative halls, one day it may be Allah's name. Or Buddha. Or even the Big Oak Tree Out Back that gets revered.

Perhaps we should ask if lying is something God condones.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Atheist Invocation at Cobb County Commission Meeting

I just found out that my friend Ed Buckner has caused quite a stir at the Cobb County Commission meeting last week with his "invocation." Ed & I may disagree on matters of faith, but a kinder, more gentle & honest man will be hard to find. What Ed did took courage & I applaud him. When gov't tries to have a Most Favored Faith, the result is never good. I resent my faith being manipulated by politicians to garner votes. And I danged sure resent clergy, AKA witchdoctors, employing faith to manipulate the congregants as voting blocs merely for the witchdoctors' power grab.

Americans United has a piece by Rob Boston on this. So does the Baptist Joint Committee. Here's a quote from the latter:

Pray in church; pray in your own home; pray privately anywhere you like, or gather in public spaces and pray: in the park, outside the courthouse, around the flagpole before or after school; but the very last place to expect a solemn religious evocation is at an official government exercise. If you demand one, you'll get what you are asking for: a circus. People of faith should instead demand the opposite: don't sully religion by using the state to promote it. No more government-sponsored prayer.

Aiken, SC to Clear Out Blue Laws

It's about time.

While I was away for the last couple of weeks, one town in my adopted state of SC actually managed to do something worthwhile --- Aiken came into the 21st century & did away with their Goof Ball legislation that outlawed stores from selling certain items before 1:30 p.m. on Sundays.

That's right. Some things couldn't be sold on Sunday before 1:30 because it is in II Opinions chapter 4 that it is an abomination.

I got a kick out of the Aiken Standard news article, where one Carrie Nation Wanna Be declared:

Vote not on the spirit of the age, but on principle. Surely you don't want to go down as the Voltaire who thought during the French Revolution that if the Sabbath was destroyed, it would destroy Christianity. Place your allegiance with the Lord on this one.

So if the majority of Aiken becomes Muslim & put their allegiance with Allah to close everything down on Thursday instead of Sunday, how would that grab everyone? If the citizens can vote religious interpretations of one faith into law, another group may one day vote their religious interpretations into law.

The founding fathers were very wise when they penned the 1st sentence in the 1st amendment, a statement that says there is not to be even the hint of any Most Favored Faith.

It is time we started living that principle as a society instead of winking at it & treating minority faiths as tolerated groups of no consequence. One day, that persecuted/tolerated minority will be tomorrow's all-important swing vote.

One Reason Baptists are Declining

Oh, the reasons are legion, to be sure, but after reading Don Hattaway's 07/30/09 article in the Christian Index (the GA Baptist newspaper) I see the main problem is that Pharisees are running the church, more concerned with tradition & power than with people.

More on that topic later on, but for right now, I found this video & believe it to be the right initial response to Hattaway's poor theology & out-&-out legalism.

I'll bet a year's salary that Hattaway wouldn't dream of allowing this as a wedding in his church, despite the fact that most people loved the wedding entrance. News flash, Don --- when people see you as irrelevant, the Jesus we proclaim is cast aside. Maybe the problem is not the message but your method, a method that is driving people away.

Let me know what you guys think about this wedding entrance.

Few Thoughts on Vienna, Austria

Just got back from vacation in Vienna, Austria. A few thoughts:

Like the rest of Europe, the transportation system is top notch: buses; trains, trolleys; & subway. Separate bike lanes encourage people to use leg power instead of fossil fuels. Walking is expected & no one complains about having to walk 10 minutes to get somewhere: it is even seen as a indulgence.

Safe. I felt as safe in Vienna as I do walking down the street in my neighborhood.

No country & western music over there. Imagine that.

The water is a source of pride for the Viennese. Franz Joseph (AKA "Frankie Joe" to my kids) decided that water was going to be a big deal one day & he developed a system to bring water from the Alps to the city. It is good. Fresh.

Little pollution. Sure, the occasional bus fume would hit my nostril but that was about it.

I'm still recovering from the jet lag. My body says it is 6 hours later than my clock.

Summer in Vienna. If I were wealthy, that is where I would spend my summers. Perfect weather. A tad chilly, at times, for my wife but for me ... a 10.

Austrian Air kicks Delta's ass any day.

There is a reason Viennese women are known for their good looks. 'Nuff said.

Like the rest of Europe, most speak more than one language, something America needs to see as basic as pre-algebra. Most spoke several languages, including the street artist from whom we bought a water color --- he spoke German, English, French, Italian & Romanian.

Salzburg is a gem that everyone needs to see at some point in their life. I could have spent a week there instead of 3 hours. The St. Peter's restaurant (established 803) is quite good.

Faith, as in all of Europe, is treated as a revered nuisance instead of being seen as relevant. In fact, most of the people ignore matters of faith even though the Catholic influence is still great, including Sunday Blue Laws where everything shuts down & all take a day off. Few attend church on that day off but it makes for an interesting pick-up soccer game at any one of the many parks.

Culture. The Viennese are quite proud of their refinement --- & should be. Mozart. Strauss. Handle. Schubert. Bach. Schönberg. Brahms. The city is like the historical collection point for classical music. And art! There are even entire districts named for artistic styles.

I can't begin to describe how incredibly beautiful the country side is. Breathtaking. Seeing all the places I have read about in the history books --- I was in awe.

Regrets. I do regret not being able to see the museums & take in some of the shows & I wish I had some time to sit down & discuss some of US politics with the locals for a different perspective.

If you get a chance, go. I won't forget this trip.