Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Resistance is NOT Futile!

You're tired. I know. I'm tired too. You watched helplessly as John Kerry conceded the presidency the day after "Black Tuesday". You, like so many others, including myself, believed that with such a ridiculously inept incumbent, "How could he (Kerry) lose?" Only to find out that the deck appears to have been stacked against, not only Kerry, but also democracy itself via voter fraud, voter intimidation, and electronic tampering. The Rethuglican juggernaut was rolling on, unabated.

Many liberals and progressives around the country probably began to believe and feel that, to quote the BORG of Star Trek fame, "Resistance is futile." I certainly have felt that way at times.

Recent events that escaped the radar of the Republican Media Machine - formerly known as the Liberal media - have given me hope, however. In fact, I feel downright energized.

Last week at Georgetown University, twenty-two students ended a nine-day hunger strike that successfully persuaded the heads of that prestigious university to give its contracted service employees a living wage. With support from the AFL-CIO and other students around the country participating in "solidarity fasts", the students raised awareness about the low wages paid to service employees of Georgetown University and that those wages are less than one tenth of what the university's president makes. According to WTOP Radio, "The university sent an all-student e-mail last night (March 23) detailing plans to increase wages and the students accepted the plan." The workers currently earn $11.33/hour (to some that may seem high enough already, but the cost of living in Washington, D.C. is higher than in many American cities). The plan will give the workers a raise to $13/hour by July 1, 2005 and up to $14 by July 2007. The plan also includes additional benefits such as use of the school's library and shuttle service.

This was a group of students who were simply looking out for people less fortunate than themselves. They were willing to and did make sacrifices for the benefit of others. And in the end, it will benefit the students that follow them to that university. I only wish that more progressives - and I have to include myself - were willing to do the same.

Resistance is not futile. Small victories do add up.

Do you know what a pogrom is? Are you aware that until recently, a notorious proponent of this genocidal practice was about to be welcomed to the United States with open arms and lavish banquets? Like most Americans, I was unaware of the pogroms that have occurred and continue to occur in India until a friend opened my eyes. For the uninitiated, a pogrom (pronounced: poe-grum) is "an organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group..." according to dictionary.com. Mr. Narendra Modi is the chief minister - an elected official similar to governors in the U.S. - of India's Gujarat, a state located on its uppermost northwest coast. Modi reportedly idolizes Hitler. Mr. Modi is also a reported architect of this officially-sanctioned genocide that occurred in 2002. Over 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat; justified by the state government as a knee-jerk reaction against the horrific mass murder of 56 Hindu men, women, and children committed reportedly by several Muslim extremists. There is a growing number of Indians who feel the mass murders that sparked the pogroms may have have been manufactured by Mr. Modi.

Those on the right side of the aisle (that's "right" as in directional, not "right" as in correct) are probably saying, "So what?" The answer to that is: "There but for the grace of God, go we." Right after the events of 9/11, Muslims in America were persecuted, certainly not to this degree, but still persecuted. One of our supposed reasons for toppling Saddam's government - after the WMD angle fell through - was because of his pogroms on the Kurds as well as his own people. There is another reason Saddam may have been chosen to fall... he looks like them, which appeased deep seeded prejudices. Most tend to forget that Saddam was our boy for most of his reign of terror. There are countless violators of human rights all over the world. The United States has played patty-cake with most and hardball with only a few, and only after they have fallen out of our good graces. We turn a blind eye when there is money to be made. We only invade when there is much more money to be made. Sorry for the digression.

The Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), scored another small victory for human rights and against big business when American Express withdrew its sponsorship of the Asian American Hotel Owner Association of America (AAHOA) convention held in Florida. CAG's contention was not of the conference itself, but rather its honoring of Mr. Modi, "the Indian politician who has been internationally condemned for his human rights abuses and for direct responsibility in the 2002 pogrom against minorities in Gujarat, India."

According to CAG's website, "American Express representative Ms. Elliott stated, 'A conference that was intended to help promote travel and tourism has become the object of partisan political contention. Therefore, we have chosen to withdraw from the conference.'" This only occurred after numerous phone calls and letters to American Express from CAG and the coalition's supporters. In addition, Mr. Modi's VISA was denied and Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL 17th) cancelled a dinner reception as well due to a "scheduling conflict."

What strikes me about American Express is that even when they do the right thing, they can't even own up to it because of political pressure from their colleagues and the rest of big business. Terri Schiavo was made "the object of partisan political contention" - by Republicans. Standing up to officially sanctioned genocide should not be considered partisan but rather everyone's political contention. Sorry, pro-lifers, Mrs. Schiavo does not qualify.

The same can be said for those brave Georgetown University students' hunger strike. Paying people a living wage should not be a partisan issue. Those kids resolved to make a difference in many others' lives, not because it was a partisan issue, but because it was the right thing to do. They put their money where their mouths were and acted to improve the quality of life for those less fortunate. Where are their Medals of Freedom, Mr. President?

Pro-lifers hold their little marches and hold their signs, and blow up an abortion clinic here and there, but when it comes to real activism, they suck, just like most of us. I would have a lot more respect for pro-lifers if they volunteered their time and energy to the actual care of those they claim to be protecting. Adopt some of those unwanted babies you keep insisting be born. Go change the bedding, diapers, and colostomy bags for those terminally ill who have absolutely no one marching in their names. You're not going to do any of that and you know it. Yet you get all up in arms when someone wants to prevent or end their suffering. Typical. To further point out your ridiculousness, stem-cell research might be the one way to truly find a cure for Terri Schiavo. Culture of life, indeed.

What CAG and the Georgetown 22 have in common is organization, persistence and resolve. True, these were small victories in the grand scheme of things, but when you string together enough small victories, true change will begin to take hold.

If you're tired of the way things are being done in this country, if you don't want a Christian-styled American Taliban to destroy this land of the free, then I implore you to get active - while it is still free. Find your voice, find your venue, and get busy!

Me? I'm just getting started.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Dissecting the Ten Commandments

Doug Griffin

With the debate raging over the display of the Ten Commandments at America’s courthouses and other government buildings, I wanted to analyze each commandment with something called logic.

I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

First of all, what does this commandment have to do with law? In my opinion, nothing says control like “obey me and only me.” This is the most blatant attempt by the authors of the Christian Bible to control you. You are not allowed to question this, only accept it. I’d question anything that says, “this is the only way and all others are false.” These are the edicts of an insecure god, not powerful one. Also, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, there is no need for the middleman (Moses of old, Benny Hinn in modern times) to deliver the message to the masses. Throughout history there have always been hucksters – and I'm sorry but, theoretically, Moses might qualify – saying that they are delivering the message of God. I heard D. L. Hughley say once, “everybody that says they work for God, isn't necessarily being truthful.” Or something to that effect.

Jesus is quoted as saying:
If those who lead you say to you, “See, the Kingdom is in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, “It is in the sea,” then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.

This is one of those quotes that you won’t hear that often in your church because the statement basically cuts out the middleman – your pastor(s). If you claim you are a Christian, then it stands to reason that you would follow the words of Christ – and not necessarily the Old Testament which Jesus supposedly made null and void. For all you fire-and-brimstone conservatives out there, that means you’ve got to let go of a lot of your beliefs. That is, if you are truly a Christian. But that requires change – possibly your biggest fear.

II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Again, nothing to do with the law. And again, here is another control mechanism. Do you realize that only the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – they are all related) require you not to question their respective validity? From a logical standpoint, does it make any sense that an all-knowing, all-powerful entity needs:
A) hucksters and charletans to spread the message? B) your total, unquestioning obedience to soothe God’s ego? And last, but not least, C) your money?

I think if one can think logically for just a few minutes, the answer to these questions is “No.” But logic has no place in organized religions, otherwise, most wouldn’t exist.

III. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Again with the vanity. And, again, not a law. Why anyone with higher than a third grade education – around the time I started questioning religion – buys into the absurdity that any omnipotent figure would be this petty, is beyond me.

IV. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Almost halfway through and still no laws, yet. The true Sabboth is Saturday. If you look up the origins of the word Saturday, you’ll find that out. Here’s a clue, in Spanish, Saturday is Sabado. Christianity can’t even get their own days right, in this respect, so they go to church on Sunday. Obviously it is okay to question or even change some rules to suit your needs. This too should be a reason to question. But most Christians wish to continue the status quo and be slaves to their beliefs rather than think for themselves as Jesus Christ – again, the namesake of the religion – directed.

V. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Here we are up to five commandments and so far nothing that resembles any laws we have on the books. Maybe this one should be a law considering that we treat elderly people like shit in this country.

VI. Thou shalt not kill.

Finally, a law! The problem is, people, specifically Christians, kill all the time. From the orginal Crusades to the modern day Crusades of President Bush – a devout Christian, and everyday across America. The man accused of being the “BTK” serial killer is reportedly a devout Christian and active member in his church – probably a registered Republican too. Go figure. I doubt that “BTK” is the only serial killer – alledged or otherwise – who is also a self-described devout Christian. Additonally, abortion clinics have been bombed by Christians – ironically called pro-lifers. Those bombings took the lives of innocents as well – some of the victims have been pregnant women, who would no more think of abortion than the most avowed pro-lifer, but whose only mistake was working in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out! Huh? Can I get an Amen? So killing is another gray area with Christians. By the way, pro-lifers need to get a life and stop meddling in other people’s lives. What am I saying, that wouldn’t be Christian.

VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Another no brainer, but not a law. If it were, the sanctity of marriage might actually mean something, rather than the ridciulous and un-constitutional notion of banning gays from marriage. If you would not want your spouse to cheat on you, why then would you cheat on him or her? Why does one need a commandment to uphold their marriage vows? If you follow one of the most basic of Christian doctrines – Do unto others… – you need only think to yourself before you break that vow. Ask yourself, “How would I feel if my spouse were to do what I am about to do?” I think if you are the least bit honest with yourself, you wouldn’t like it. It might even make you want to kill someone.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal.

Hey, another law. That’s two. We’re cooking with gas now!

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

This one is only a law if you are under oath. This also falls under the do unto others… category.

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Again, do unto others… but not a law.

So, only two of the ten commandments are actual laws on our books. Why then must the commandments be displayed on government property.

Jesus reportedly summed up the Ten Commandments with two:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself.

Buddhism simply says, “Cause no harm.”

That sums up everything that Commandments 5 through 10 discuss in one simple sentence. In my opinion, it sums up life in general. Is what you are doing at this moment causing harm to anyone – including yourself? That’s the only question you need to ask yourself before you do anything – lie, cheat, steal, kill, abuse – to any person or animal.

Commandments 1 through 4 basically feed the alleged vanity of God. Again, I ask, why would an omnipotent being be vain and need ego-stroking?

The question has to be asked, again, why display something at our courthouses that really has nothing to do with our laws?

It is the ego of Christianity – not of God – which compells Christians to insist the Ten Commandments be displayed. Everyone does not worship the Christian God and it does not make those people wrong because they do not. Nor should it diminish the power of the Christian God simply because the commandments are not displayed. Give God a little more credit!

To me, one of the biggest problems with Christianity, indeed Judaism and Islam as well, is the arrogance that each have in saying that theirs is the only way. If you notice, the further west you go on the globe, the more arrogant the practitioners of the religion in the region. And you just don't get any further west or more arrogant than the United States of America. Do ya?

I am not an atheist. I grew up in the Baptist church. I started questioning the contradictions in the Bible – and there are many – a long time ago. However, I do still believe in a higher power. I just don’t believe that I am as detatched from that power as the messengers of Christianity would have us believe. I believe that we are all God. I don’t need a filter nor need to be told how to connect because I am already connected to God.

It has been my experience that getting to heaven is the sole motivation for Christians to do the right thing.

In that respect, I ask two final questions:
Is it best to do what is right because you have a perceived reward waiting for you in the hereafter?

Or, is it best to do what is right simply for the sake of doing what is right?

Cause no harm.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Trying to make Chicken Salad out of Chicken Shit

An exercise in futility with the Bush Administration

chicken shit:
1. Contemptibly petty or insignificant. For example, He has spent his life making up chicken shit rules that nobody follows anyway. This expression gained currency during World War II, when it was often applied to the enforcement of petty and disagreeable military regulations. [Vulgar slang; c. 1930]
2. Cowardly, as in You're not too chicken shit to come along, are you? [Vulgar slang; mid-1940s]

George W. Bush is, by definition, a cowardly chicken shit. Ditto for the entire Bush Administration. I have two words for those offended by those two statements: Champagne Unit. Two more words: Draft Dodgers. Most bullies I’ve met in my life have been total chicken shits. Lots of machismo and bravado with very little substance behind it. True, the Bush Administration has no qualms about using military force to back up the bravado – in some cases, anyway. Let’s face it, Bush wants everyone to believe he’s a badass cowboy when in actuality, he’s afraid to mount a horse.

The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, no matter how you sugar coat it, was/is illegal and immoral. Does everyone deserve freedom and democracy? Yes. Is everyone going to stand up and fight for it? No. And democracy and freedom via the barrel of someone else’s gun, isn’t exactly the best way to plant the seeds of democracy. America and the world can only reap the benefits if the seeds of democracy are sown from within and nurtured rather than forced from the outside. Otherwise, you tend to get what we have today in Iraq. And by the way, Afghanistan is only slightly less tenuous.

On the February 25th episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher explained that even though he knows the WMD hunt was bullshit, he likes the current “script” Team Bush is reading from now – the “spreading the seeds of democracy” script. My question for Maher – whom I have considerable respect for – is: Huh?

After some consideration, I concluded that perhaps Maher was simply trying to make chicken salad out of the chicken shit policies of the Bush Administration.

By chicken shit policies, I mean Iraq had no WMD and no formidable military. We marched right into Baghdad virtually unscathed. President Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, complete with Halloween costume, to declare that the mission had been accomplished. “Mission Accomplished” – at least in my mind – means that the war is over, the stockpiles of forbidden weapons have been found, and our troops will be coming home soon. Obviously, that’s not what happened. Like a lot of guys President Bush’s age, he couldn’t hold his wad any longer, and prematurely shot off his “at-a-boy” for himself. Of course, the futile search for WMD had yet to even begin at that point and the fighting, we would soon learn, was far from over. This was definitely, in Senator John Kerry’s words, “the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

Weapons of mass destruction. Gathering threat. Mushroom cloud. 9/11. These are all lines from the script that the Bush Administration used to read from and the mainstream media used to parrot, prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Now, it’s “we’re spreading democracy” and “freedom is on the march” and other catch phrases to help you forget the original lie.

Excuse me, Bill, if I don’t jump on that “spreading democracy” bullshit bandwagon! If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were drinking from the same pitcher of Rovenberry Kool Aid that your buddy Dennis Miller has been drinking from since Heir Bush was selected four years ago.

There are plenty of places that were and are still in far worse shape – democratically speaking and with regard to human rights – than Iraq. Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, and other hotspots on the African continent, as well as other places around the globe where human rights atrocities continue to mount up but tend to get ignored because they either haven’t been oppressed for long enough or they don’t have any WMD – real or otherwise – to mask our reasons for going in to secure their oil… er… freedom, most of them don’t have oil.

But going back to the administration’s original premise for war, WMD, there were and still are legitimate targets to attack – Libya (were category), Iran, and North Korea come to mind. True to bully form, the Bushies went for the easy target. The one without the WMD or formidable fighting force, but with a much more alluring target: the second largest oil reserve on the planet. Meanwhile, Iran has ratcheted up its nuclear, that’s n-u-c-l-e-a-r, ambitions and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is all but saying, “I’ve got nuclear weapons, what are you gonna do about it, you little punk-ass bi-atch?”

Obviously, little-to-nothing since Kim Jong Il has a million-man standing army, no oil, and that little deterrent called a nuclear arsenal – albeit a small one. Iran has obviously been taking notes.

But with George W. Bush, it’s always about the punk move. Support the Viet Nam War but don’t fight in it. Claim to serve in the National Guard, yet have gaps in your service that would qualify most as AWOL. Claim to defend democracy abroad, yet subvert it in the United States. Claim to be a cowboy while simultaneously being afraid of horses. Take out the weakest, most insignificant country on your own Axis-of-Evil list to show how tough you are, but allow other, less-weak members on the list to strengthen their own arsenals. These actions, and many others, are those of a straight-up chicken shit and, again, typical of most bullies. Add to that the overtly Potemkin campaign rallies and press conferences and having protesters shielded from his view – even in foreign countries he’s trying to pursuade to assist us in his dessert folly – only further exemplifies his chicken shit behavior.

With the Bush Administration, there is entirely too much chicken shit to even attempt to make chicken salad. The chicken coup is in desparate need of a good powerwashing. While the invasion of Iraq is representative of Bush wanting to prove to us and the world – and especially his daddy – that he is that badass cowboy. In the process, Bush has done more than just shield himself from the protestors and nay-sayers, he’s shielded himself from the truth. And the truth has proven to be the horse Bush is afraid to mount.