Thank You, Alabama

You shouldn’t have to congratulate someone for not electing a fecal blossom like Roy Moore, but considering everything he represents, I can’t help but feeling obliged. This is for you, ’bama.

Peace in the Middle East

POEBefore the tragedy in Ferguson became the story du jour, I found it sadly amusing to see conservative pundits clamoring to claim that if the Barack Obama hadn’t pulled our troops out of Iraq, we wouldn’t have to deal with these ISIS douche bags. Well, if George W. Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq – under false pretense, mind you – we wouldn’t be dealing with these ISIS douche bags either. Heck, if Bush’s flunkies hadn’t disbanded the Iraqi Army after that illegal invasion, we wouldn’t be dealing with these ISIS douche bags either. And let’s not forget the 4,500 American lives lost – along with the nearly 80,000 wounded or injured – thanks to both of those stupid decisions by the Bush administration.

More sad than amusing is the fact that these are the same fucktards who whine about government spending. According to Reuters, the Iraq fiasco cost U.S. taxpayers $2,190,000,000 (that’s $2.19 trillion) as of 2012, with an additional $6 trillion projected over the next 40 years to support the veterans sent to fight there. And, again, let’s not forget the horrific human cost I mentioned above. You’d think those conservative cranks would be grateful to Obama for stemming the bleeding – both fiscally and literally.

And as bad as it was, Saddam Hussein’s psychotic rule, and the size and power of his military, kept Islamic fundamentalists like ISIS out of Iraq. In fact, they also kept countries that foster such douche bags (yeah, I’m talking about you, Iran) relatively in check.

Of course, these right-wing pundits aren’t concerned with things like logic, reason, reality, etc. All they care about is attacking the opposition party, which happens to be in power. It’s attack and destroy politics, as opposed to consideration and compromise, and it’s tearing this country apart.

And speaking of attack and destroy, and tearing things apart, I have a ludicrous suggestion for peace in the Middle East. It’s not exactly practical, let alone moral. But it might set the kind of example that would make these radicals think twice about reaching for a weapon instead of an olive branch.

I’m turning 50 next year, and as far back as I can remember, my government – the United States – has been using my tax dollars to try and broker some sort of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our government has tried hard, investing countless hours, dollars, and other resources into solving this issue. Heck, the entire world has been bending over backwards trying to get these two sides to learn how to live together, to no avail. No fewer than 30 peace proposals have been negotiated between the Palestinians and Israelis in the past 65 years!

I know that neither side has always been acting in good faith. And the US doesn’t exactly have clean hands either. Not to mention the frightening fact that the Religious Right, who have the support of many Republican politicians (George W. Bush included), actually want to provoke a war in the Middle East because they believe it will hasten the end of the world and thereby accelerate their own personal trip to heaven – or some bullshit prophecy along those lines. And let’s face it, that’s about as ridiculous as blowing up a bus full of innocents to expedite your trip to heaven and a champagne party with 40 virgins. Lunacy!

So what to do? I’m at wit’s end. My government is at wit’s end. Arguably the world is as wit’s end. Perhaps this time we should all say, “Folks, you’re on your own now.” And then tell them they have 12 months to sort things out amongst themselves, or we – the world – will sort it out for ourselves. In other words, sort your shit, or someone else will sort it for you.

And if they fail to find their own peace after a year’s time? We’ll assemble a massive international fleet of military aircraft and surprise them all one night with a carpet-bombing campaign that begins at Israel’s southern border on the Sinai and destroys everything between the Jordan River and the sea – Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank – all the way up through Lebanon (like you bastards have been any better) and then fans out over all of Syria (because you motherfuckers are the real reason we’ve all got to deal with these ISIS douche bags) before pulling up just short of the Turkish border. We’ll level it all, with wave after wave of bunker busters followed by incendiaries. Scorched Earth 101.

LeMayHolePractical? No. Moral? No. Effective? Well, we’ve tried being diplomatic – for nearly 65 years – and things haven’t improved one bit. That’s a lot of time, energy, and money that could have been spent elsewhere, preferably (though, if we’re being honest, highly unlikely) bettering mankind. Plus, as I said earlier, it would send a message to other hot spots around the world that they better sort their shit out – quietly, and fast – because the rest of the world is tired of this bullshit. Where’s Gen. Curtis LeMay when ya need him?

Seriously, though. Peace in the Middle East? We deserve it. But – after all of this fighting, the countless deals that have fallen through, the decades of bickering and bloodshed, the hatred and horrific acts of violence – do they really deserve it?

OK, everyone deserves to live in peace. But my patience is wearing thin. With the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as with the pundits and preachers. And while I loathe the likes of LeMay, even a punk like Putin would think twice about being such an international asshole if he knew we had a nutjob like LeMay roaming the halls of the Pentagon, pushing for ludicrous plans like the one I have proposed here.

Purity of essence, my friends. Purity of essence.

Arizona: Land of Hate?

AZflgWould it be reprehensible for me to ban people from Arizona from reading this blog? Or would that merely be a justifiable exercise of my rights?

OK, I don’t mean to sweep all residents of Arizona into the same asbestos-lined basket of rotting rat turds. In fact, I like everyone I’ve ever met from that state. But the majority of voters in Arizona seem to be assholes of the highest order.

First they pass a law on par with those of the old East Germany, giving the police the right to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who looks the least bit suspicious. So if I, with my Mediterranean good looks, were to walk into a dinner outside of Tuscon, the local cops could saunter over to my booth and legally demand “Papers, please!” It must be like living in a Cold War spy movie, except this is your home – not some Iron Curtain backwater.

Then the esteemed citizens of Arizona tried to pass a law on par with Uganda’s recently enacted official hatred of all things homosexual. Clearly looking to outmaneuver Mississippi in the race to be the Shithead State, Arizona tried to pass legislation that would give businesses the right to refuse service to anyone they deemed gay.

How exactly would that have worked? I mean, Richard Simmons is about as flamboyant as the stereotype can get, but he’s never openly discussed his sexual preference. Would he be able to order a gluten-free kale wrap at an Arizona diner with more enthusiasm than the entire cast of Glee? Or would he be refused service simply based on appearance, like the state’s “I Hate Hispanics” law? And what if someone is bisexual? Does that mean they can only order half a sandwich?

HoBiReligious Freedom, Religious Liberty
Look, I understand where these people are coming from. They do not believe in homosexuality, just as a significant portion of like-minded individuals in this country don’t believe in science. It’s ludicrous and shameful, but they are certainly entitled to believe what they choose to believe. The problem is that these religious fanatics are now trying to legislate their beliefs, insisting that we must all adhere to their extremism as as if this country were some sort of medieval theocracy.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve also flirted with the notion of religious freedom as an excuse to shape legislation. Though, rather than using it to oppose a behavior I found objectionable, I was thinking of using it to support one that I enjoy: the legalization of marijuana. After all, I reckoned, the practice is considered a sacrament in the Rastafarian religion. So, if I grew some dreads, I shouldn’t have any trouble with the feds, right? Religious freedom…religious liberty!

Wrong. I quickly dismissed this notion because it is hopelessly flawed. Religious freedom is about the freedom to believe whatever you want, not necessarily do whatever you want. Of course, you are free to practice your beliefs in whatever way you want as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, who may not share your beliefs, or the laws of the land, which are – and should always be – secular, just like our Constitution. And that’s where the problem lies, in that these boneheads think the law should be dictated by their own religious beliefs, like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Besides, if we had to allow everything that is illegal simply because someone claims their God says it is or is not permissible, then we’d have to allow clowns like David Koresh and Warren Jeffs to freely molest children. Is that what Arizona wants? I don’t think so.

Leave Judgement To Your God
OK, so you still insist that your invisible being in the ether says that homosexuality is a sin. An abomination, if you choose to interpret it that way (I have a friend who is fluent in Hebrew and she argues that the biblical passage says it’s merely frowned upon, not an “abomination” as some – particularly those who aren’t fluent in Hebrew – claim). But if that’s what you believe, then simply don’t practice homosexuality. Don’t commit that sin.

Why must you judge others based on your beliefs? Isn’t it part of your beliefs that only God can judge your fellow man? Or is that now your job because the omnipotent one is having a little trouble multitasking as he tries to assist every single high school football team in Texas that has a pre-game prayer, with the team that prays harder winning in the all-too-likely event that both teams engage in this ridiculous and surely blasphemous practice?

LeeringLegislationComplete Bullshit
How do I know this is nothing more than blatant homophobic bullshit? Because the Bible also claims that coveting thy neighbor’s wife is a sin. Is anyone pushing for legislation to refuse service to men who leer? Strangely, no, these pure adherents of the Bible have chosen to ignore or overlook that one.

Many Christians also consider gluttony to be a sin, one of the Big Seven. So where was the Religious Right when Mayor Bloomberg tried to ban large servings of sugary sodas in New York City? Shouldn’t they have thrown their millions of dollars and supporters into that well-intentioned effort to combat the sin of gluttony?

The Bible’s Book of Proverbs contains a list of six things that God allegedly hates, and one he considers an abomination. The first two items on that list are a proud look and a lying tongue. Why is it that Christians, particularly those who think every word of the Bible was written by God, never concentrate any of their venomous judgement and well-financed lobbying on those two offenses?

There’s a lot more vanity and deception out there than homosexuality. But rather than focus on these two offenses, among the first things their God is clearly said to hate, Bible thumpers are totally obsessed with one obscure passage that may or may not claim that homosexuality is an abomination.

If these people genuinely believe that the Bible is the word of God, and have dedicated their lives to following it, then why do they ignore that passage in the Book of Proverbs? Perhaps its because the seventh offense on that list, the one that God supposedly does consider an abomination, is one that doesn’t fit well with their chosen lifestyle: him that soweth discord among brethren.

Hmm, that sounds a lot like the voters of Arizona.

What’s Up, DOC NYC? Mission Congo

NYCdocI watch a lot of documentaries. On the TV as well as the big screen. I like a little redeeming value from my entertainment. I consider it part of my continuing education.

Naturally, I was stoked to learn about DOC NYC, New York City’s documentary film festival. And they had such a diverse selection to choose from. Though, considering these economic times, I felt obliged to be particularly judicious in deciding which I’d go see in the cinema and which I’d wait to catch on television.

Mission Congo
First up was Mission Congo, which took a look at multi-millionaire televangelist Pat Robertson, his 700 Club television show, and his Operation Blessing relief mission. Now I know these clowns are crooks, and the true enemies of all that Jesus supposedly taught us. Yet Robertson, a failed presidential candidate, is one of the most revered individuals in the Christian Right. In addition to heading the multi-million dollar Christian Broadcasting Network and hosting the 700 Club, he is the de facto leader of the Christian Coalition, the heart of the right-wing evangelical movement of conservative Christians. He is the posterchild of the Religious Right.

This hour-long documentary focuses on Robertson’s activities in the 1990s, when he was using his television show and broadcasting network to raise more than $200 million for Operation Blessing, which he claimed was an African relief effort. The film featured footage of Robertson claiming that funds from phone-in donors were being used to fly doctors and medicine to Zaire (now the Congo) to treat a cholera outbreak and other crisis conditions at a camp of refugees from Rwanda’s genocide. Then the documentary showed interviews of people on the ground in Africa – not only the doctors, relief workers, journalists, and locals at this refugee camp but also employees of Robertson’s Operation Blessing and African Development Corporation. The discrepancies were startling.

MissCongContrary to Robertson’s claims, Operation Blessing was not flying significant amounts of medical teams or medicine into the area. Nor were they even a factor in the relief effort. The only recollection anyone on the ground had of Robertson’s people was that an occasional zealot would follow Médecins Sans Frontières’ stretcher bearers, doing nothing more than trying to read the Bible to the camp’s most critical patients. Some of the footage Robertson showed on the 700 Club to raise funds were clearly Médecins Sans Frontières aid workers – not Operation Blessing personnel as he had claimed.

So what did Robertson do with the $200 million he raised tax-free for these African refugees? He cut a deal with Zairian President Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, a notoriously brutal dictator who was under investigation at the time for crimes against humanity (some of Robertson’s other pals in the country lived long enough to be convicted of war crimes), that gave him diamond mining concessions in exchange for his efforts in using the Religious Right to lobby against the sanctions imposed on Mobutu, as the dictator had been branded evil (and rightfully so) by the American government. In reality, Operation Blessing was an airlift to bring dredges and other mining equipment to the other side of Zaire for his mining operation, which was incorporated offshore as the African Development Corporation.

So instead of helping African refugees, he was raping their land of its precious resources. And doing so tax-free, under the false flag of Christian charity. That’s the face of American televangelism. That is the face of the Religious Right. A multi-millionaire who prays off the false hopes of the faithful and crawls in bed with war criminals to further fatten his tax-exempt bank accounts.

A reporter from The Virginian-Pilot exposed the scandal, and the Virginia Board of Consumer Affairs (Operation Blessing and the Christian Broadcasting Network are based in Virginia) launched an investigation. They found that Robertson not only lied, but committed fraud. And they even recommended that Robertson be prosecuted for his crimes. However, the state’s new governor and attorney general declined to prosecute him. And they denied that their decision had anything to do with the large campaign contributions they received from Robertson’s people.

Having used his political influence to evade criminal prosecution, Robertson claimed he was vindicated of all wrong-doing. But his diamond-mining concessions in Zaire disappeared once Mobutu was ousted. So Robertson then cut a similar deal with Charles Taylor, the then notoriously evil leader of Liberia who is currently serving 50 years for his crimes against humanity. And, as the documentary points out, the Operation Blessing Web site is still raising funds for its operation in what is now the Congo, claiming that the funds are needed to support a farm and school that it abandoned way back in 1995.

If you get a chance to see Mission Congo, I highly recommend you do so. The problem is that so few will actually see it (the filmmakers don’t even have a trailer on YouTube). And those who do see it most likely already know what a corrupt douche Pat Robertson is.

But perhaps something good will come out of it as people, like myself, become aware of the Trinity Foundation, which was featured in the film. It is a watchdog organization that investigates religious fraud, primarily in the televangelist community. Now that’s something I can support!

PeepHistZinnThe Untold History of the United States
Have you read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn? If you haven’t, you should. And if you have, then you have no need to see The Untold History of the United States, a 10-hour documentary series by Oliver Stone.

I saw the second of two two-hour prologues to Stone’s 10-hour series that first appeared on Showtime. Neither of these prologues had been seen before. He claims it would have been too confusing for younger audiences. In other words, he chose to edit the historical narrative in hopes of earning higher ratings.

As part of DOC NYC, I went to check it out, to see if it was worth 10 hours of my time to watch the rest of it. But, like I said, it’s a flashy rip-off of Zinn’s magnificent book. I didn’t even stick around to listen to the Q&A with Stone, who had sat across the aisle from me. I figured, I gave him two hours to make his case…I don’t need to stick around for another hour to hear any more.