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Posts Tagged ‘History’

According to The National Priorities Project, The United States passed a landmark on May 30, 2010. On that day, the United States will have spent 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq and Afghan wars, and on June 7, 2010, the Afghan war will become the longest war the United States has waged.

Moreover, the cost of the war in Afghanistan is currently 1 million dollars per soldier per year, according to this November 14, 2009 New York Times article.

One million dollars is a large number, but one trillion dollars is an unimaginably larger number. It’s easy to gloss over when the politicians and pundits toss around these numbers.

The thickness of a dollar bill is 0.0043 inches. So a stack of a million dollar bills would be about 109.22 meters or 358 feet tall. That’s as high as an office building 30 stories tall, counting a story as being approximately 11.9 feet tall (about 3.6 meters).

But a stack of a trillion dollars would be 63,516.5633 miles (109220 km) tall. That’s 2.5 times the circumference of the earth. That’s what American taxpayers pay for the Iraq/Afghan war. And the champions of small government say nothing about this.

Did you know that the United States just by itself has a military budget greater than the rest of the world’s countries combined? Or did you know the US military budget is more than 10 times  greater than that of either Russia or China’s? (Click here for the documentation of those figures).

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I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. (Galileo Galilei, quote taken from Michael Parenti’s new book titled God and his Demons)

Recently, I’ve received some private emails from readers of this blog concerning my passing statement that I am an atheist. I mentioned it as a minor point at the very end of my article Trusting God and Worshiping Mammon, which deals with separation of Church and State in the American constitution.

Several people have since emailed me to ask me why I don’t believe in God, expressing their own doubts. One of these correspondents tells me she doesn’t believe in God either. Like many in her position, she dreads the loss of respect and affection of friends and family, fearing that admitting an atheist outlook would cause loved ones much distress.

I well can understand these swirling feelings, and I sympathize with their plight. All of us atheists have faced the discomfort of disapproval or loss of friends because of this at one point in our lives.

Not long ago, I had just such an emotionally painful experience, an experience not untypical for atheists.

I used to participate in a physical fitness web forum whose owner, an ordained minister, often said he is honored to be my friend. But then, a month or so ago, he started a thread titled “The Fool Says In His Heart There Is No God.” This refers to a Bible verse that says atheists are fools and incapable of producing anything of good.

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On the Religious Tolerance website, I found the following:

Concerning the Ten Commandments in courthouses and legislatures: You cannot post ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal,’ ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,’ and ‘Thou Shall Not Lie’ in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians…It creates a hostile work environment.

The above witty quote illustrates a peculiarly American conundrum.

We US citizens have an officially nonreligious government enshrined in our founding document, the Constitution of the United States, yet one of the most religious populations for an advanced industrial nation. That dynamic opposition, historically speaking, has created an interesting political tension.

God As A Secular and Patriotic American

In the western part of United States, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the second highest court, ruling over 9 states and 2 territories. It sets legal precedents for all courts in the western United States, and lower courts are bound by its rulings. Only the United States Supreme Court can overrule it.

This court recently made the preposterous ruling that the phrase “under God” in the American Pledge of Allegiance is not inherently religious. Two of the 3 justices actually said that the phrase “under God” was merely a patriotic and ceremonial phrase, not a religious one.

Now American judges are supposed to be scholars of the law. Thus, for these judges to make such an obviously moronic assertion with a straight face is an insult to the intelligence of thinking Americans.

Surely those august scholars of the law can’t believe that to be true unless they have deliberately stupefied themselves.

I clearly remember when that phrase was added to our Pledge of Allegiance in the middle 1950s. Before then, it had not been a part of the American Pledge of Allegiance.

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The article that appeared in this blog called Pat Robertson’s Blasphemy, Accuses God of Terrorism has got me a fair amount of private email, and several readers of this blog left comments. Because of these private emails comments posted here, there are a few more things I wish to say about Robertson and this tragedy.

In the past few days, it has become quite obvious to me that many, and probably most, Christians completely disavow Pat Robertson’s pronouncements, which seemingly blame the Haitians themselves for this tragedy. It’s not just us atheists who are offended. Many decent Christian folks have also taken exception.

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For those blog readers outside the United States, the State Of The Union Address is a speech the American president customarily gives at the beginning of each year, usually in January but sometimes in February, to a joint session of congress and, via broadcast, to the USA population. It lays out what the president hopes to accomplish in the coming year, what the past year has meant in his or her estimation, what the state of the country (the Union) is. If I were the president’s speech writer, this is the speech I’d write for him.

Good evening Madam Speaker, Vice President Joseph Biden, Elected Members of Congress, privileged guests, and my not-so-privileged and long-suffering fellow citizens and residents of these United States of America:

Customarily, during a State of the Union Speech, the congressional attendees and privileged guests in these chambers interrupt this speech with many applause lines, cheers, and even a few ovations. I fear that tonight, my fellow Americans, those elected legislators and privileged guests will do precious little applauding and even less cheering.

At the beginning of my address tonight, I will give them credit, the credit they deserve. I will recognize that these legislators have worked very hard, represented quite effectively their constituents, the stakeholders present at the negotiating table that is Washington DC. They have supped at the table of American affluence. They spent many hours dealing with conflicting agendas of those who sought their ear, those who sought to influence them, those who brought them their views, their concerns.

However, they will not cheer the various points I make in this address. Their silence will be forthcoming because tonight I speak not in the service of those constituents for whom the legislators have labored so diligently, so conscientiously.

No! Instead, tonight’s speech is in service of people with a separate set of interests, the ordinary working people, the common people, those whom we understand by the term “American middle class.” That’s quite a different constituency, if you will, than those whom the mass media and the pundits have traditionally considered to be the stakeholders who matter.

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In 1940, shortly before the United States went to war against Hitler’s Germany, the famed and highly-acclaimed comic actor and director Charlie Chaplin made a wonderful movie called “The Great Dictator.” You can get The Great Dictator for home viewing, and it is a worthwhile purchase.

This movie plays up the classic doppelganger gag. The story is of a little Jewish tailor who is drafted into the army of the country of “Tomania,” (a satirical reference to Germany) during the First World War. The Jewish tailor helps save a comrade in battle and is wounded, ending up with amnesia in the hospital. After 20 years, just before the beginning of World War II, he somehow leaves the hospital to go back to his barbershop, thinking he has only been gone a couple of weeks. Of course, the anti-Jewish pogroms were in full swing by then.

As an odd wrinkle, our little Jewish tailor bears an uncanny physical likeness to the insane dictator of Tomania , Adenoid Hynkel, (another satirical reference, this time to Adolf Hitler) who is rising to power on anti-Semitism and anticommunism. In fact, at the beginning of the movie, there is an advisory that the resemblance between Adenoid Hynkel and the tailor is purely coincidental! Our Jewish tailor is completely unaware of the anti-Jewish fever sweeping the country or the redoubtable Adenoid Hynkel’s rise to power.

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Martin Luther King died in 1968, a year of incredible upheaval throughout the world. I was a young married man with a beautiful young daughter. We lived in San Diego, California, and I was a private music teacher. It was a completely different world then. People in my town thought it was funny to call Dr. King “Martin Luther Coon.” Many were sure he was a communist.

A student came to my studio in downtown San Diego for a music lesson. He was about 16, and his father was an officer in the Navy. San Diego had a large US Navy base.

This young man broke the shocking news to me that Dr. King had been assassinated. He was quite pleased. He referred to Dr. King as “Martin Coon.”

 

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Rachel Maddow, on her show, displayed a clip of the Reverend Pat Robertson explaining the role he thinks God played in the horrible disaster that befell Haiti early this week. Apparently, it was God’s vengeful fist that crushed the 100,000 people who died in that tiny country, if Reverend Robertson is to be believed.

Here is my transcription of Reverend Robertson’s words from the Maddow video.

They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’True story! And so the devil said, "Okay, it’s a deal!" And they kicked the French out, you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, but ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor!

Americans well remember how upset they were over the despicable and criminal 9/11 terrorist attack that killed 3000 people.

And now Reverend Robertson accuses God of this act of mass murder, in effect, accusing God of committing a terrorist act 10 times more heinous than the 9/11 terrorist bombing in New York, all because of something their ancestors did a couple of centuries ago!

Reverend Pat figures God’s been fuming ever since. So that’s why, 206 years later, He decides to flatten the place!

Now I’m not a believer myself, but that sure sounds like blasphemy to me.

Maybe Reverend Robertson thinks the only way a bunch of illiterate blacks could defeat the mighty white French army was by making the devil their ally.

So God, according to Reverend Robertson, in a fit of pique, kills all those innocent bystanders, including nursing women, children, babies, elderly people, just because a bunch of black folks a couple of centuries ago had the temerity to slap the face of the white master and then throw his tokhes out of the mansion.

No doubt, those dark-skinned rebels could not have possibly committed this outrageous mortal sin without being in league with  the devil himself! After all, look at what they did! They were the first independent nation in Latin-America and the only nation ever born of a slave revolt. Haiti was actually the first independent black-led country to come out of a colonial revolution!

Unquestionably, that had to be Satan’s handiwork, n’est-ce pas?

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It appears that this well-documented RawStory.com article gives us another graphic lesson about the folly of imperial adventures with its description of a recent suicide bombing.

The article describes how the CIA recruited an Afghani to act as an “informant,” (which is polite-speak for spy). CIA personnel escorted said Afghani would-be informant into a CIA facility, whereupon he detonated the bomb he had hidden on his person, killing himself, several CIA agents, including the CIA station chief, along with several “contractors” (more polite-speak for mercenaries).

The bomber was wearing the uniform of the Karzai’s Afghan National Army. He enjoyed enough trust that security did not check him for any hidden nasty surprises before escorting him into the compound.

This was despite the known success the Taliban have had in infiltrating the Afghan National Army, police, and security forces, and the corruption of the Karzai regime.

Now I don’t much care for the forces who make up the Taliban. However, they are native forces fighting an unpopular foreign occupying army.

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In this essay, when I say “Americans,” I mean citizens of the United States, with apologies to the good citizens of other countries on the North American and South American Continents who visit this site.

The real question is this: What is the American middle class and in what sense did it ever exist? And how does this tie in with idea of the “upper class”?

We Americans love to think we have no “upper class,” that we are a actually a classless society, that the USA is a democracy beholden to the will of the governed, the great “middle class.” The politicians tell us they serve the interests of this middle class, the ordinary chap in the street and in the workplace.

The popular American concept of ourselves is that when the Europeans landed in what eventually became the United States, they formed an egalitarian society. Eventually, a majority coalition of small landholders, the small tradesmen, the mechanics and artisans, the yeomen farm-holders, frontiersmen, and small burghers–in other words, the great  and broad “middle class” overthrew the tyrannical rule of the tax-happy British monarchy and instituted a republican form of government. This was a government, perhaps divinely inspired, that represented the will of the great majority of its inhabitants.

Like all narratives that great powers and empires tell themselves about their beginnings, this tasty broth contains both a dash of truth and dash of myth.

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