April 28, 2006

The Rapture Crapture (Part 2)

The Rapture Crapture (Part 2): Make War for Christ's Sake!


1-2-3-4 -- what are we waiting for? The Rapture Index which uses dozens of categories of disaster to predict the exact date of the Rapture reaches its self-imposed ceiling of 225! All over God's Chosen Nation, the elect (so-called because they win elections), feel lighter in their loafers in anticipation of zipping up to heaven.

Rumors fly of multiple fatalities attributed to drivers and pilots being snatched away by the Lord from their 18-wheelers and crop-dusters even as they toil. (Curiously they're all happening south of the Mason-Dixon line). And what would clinch it? What would force the mighty Lamb to return? Simple. Start a glorious blood-and-fireballs WAR! Screams-of-the-damned, billions-dead-as-the-nukes-fly WAR! Christ LOVES war! Didn't He promise way back when to give us the WAR of ALL WARS (Matt. 24.5-31)?

In Part 1 of the Rapture-Crapture, I said Part 2 would get into why the Loyal Opposition has to pay more attention to this apocalyptic twaddle if we seriously want to defeat the pseudo-Christian Taliban, most especially Talibangelists like Falwell, Robertson, Perkins, Dobson, le Haye, et al. (Actually I have nothing against al.)

But many Part 1 comments evinced interest in the origins of the Rapture -- for example that it has little or nothing to do with scripture having been invented out of whole cloth -- much as Mormonism was -- by an early 19th-century nut-job. I thought one more post about how it 'works' might be useful.

Know your enemy (so long as you also love him).

What makes the holy rams and ewes of the Southern Baptist and fundamentalist Evangelical flocks go all weak at the knees is that the End Time is unfolding in the very same lands they read about in the Bible! Long before 9/11, it had been pointed out by the Talibangelists, with rare historical accuracy, that Iraq was Babylon, the original evil empire. In turn this made Saddam the re-born Nebuchadnezzar, scourge of God's Chosen People. (Jews in the Bible; Americans in the pseudo-Christian 'literally interpreted' Bible). Saddam even tried to rebuild Babylon on its ancient ruins -- one of the most precious archeological sites in the world. Happily it's now occupied by the Marine Corps who dug 500-foot trenches through, built a helipad on, and graveled 300,000 square metres of, the Cradle of Civilization. Take that evil empire!

The Talibangelists aren't too fond of archeology anyway; there's always the danger it might prove something's older than October 24th 4004 BC (the exact date of creation according to creationists). It was a Monday if you recall. God did the whole job in one Judeo-Christian work-week at which point He kicked back and said "Thank Me it's Friday!" But I digress.

If like me, you still haven't figured exactly why Bush blithely earned the opprobrium of history and the world by his brutal blitzkrieg on the Iraqi people (oil? avenging Poppy? keeping Wolfowitz happy?) try this: as far as his base is concerned he biffed the Babylonians. The base didn't need a better reason and they still don't. And now it's time to smash the Medes and Persians (aka Iran).

If these neo-biblical events make the holy rams and ewes go all weak at the knees, imagine what the fate of Israel does to them. Israel is central to the Rapture-Crapture: the final battle between the returned Christ and Anti-Christ will be fought at Har-Megiddo (hence Ar-mageddon) near Haifa. The Christian Taliban, who within living memory blamed the Jews for every ill afflicting America, are now more Israeli than the Israelis. These newly minted ex-anti-Semites have almost single-handedly revived the moribund Israeli tourist industry: they all head straight for Megiddo to gloat over the oceans of infidel and secular humanist blood that will be shed there.

Earlier this month Texan Talibangelist John Hagee announced a new PAC, Christians United for Israel, to help out AIPAC. A lot of questions have arisen about whether CUI would oppose certain Israeli government plans, for example withdrawal from the West Bank. While that's a serious issue, the secret and far more important agenda here, which the Talibangelists keep to themselves, is the Crapture. You see, when Israel finally occupies Greater Israel -- something many Israelis believe would be rather an obstacle to peace -- the Rapture will be at hand.

Here's what happens next in the Talibangelist scenario: Antichrist shows up in Israel and 2/3rds of Israel perishes. This must happen or Christ won't show. When He does the final Steelcage Smackdown unfolds at Megiddo; Christ wins, whereupon the final third of Israel converts (and if they don't, they're damned along with the rest of us). Sound like godly gobbledygook? Yup, but as always scores of millions of American voters are deadly serious about it. They preach on it all the time. Guess who's listening.

Bottom-line is no matter how bad all this gets when translated into real-world policy, IT'S ALL GOOD. The last thing the Talibangelists want is peace in the Middle East. So chances are there'll be a war against the Medes and Persians, however ill-advised that might be. No measured and informed arguments based on history, hard intelligence estimates, constitutionality, long term US interests etc. are going to make a scrap of difference. What are such trivial matters compared to the inerrant word of God? And if it should lead to World War 3 (or 4 -- whichever we're up to by now), fine! The worse things are the better they get.

There's much more to the Rapture-Crapture scenario that reveals how listening to the Talibangelists has undermined sane foreign policy and vital American interests. (For example Antichrist will come from the European Union which the Talibangelists refer to as 'The Beast of Revelation'; understandably the Euros aren't too happy about this characterization). But this will do for now.

Many who hope to take back a House or two in November and the White one in '08 routinely dismiss the Rapture-Crapture factor as a side-issue, possibly because anything to do with religion makes them uncomfortable. I believe it's central to the policies of those currently disgracing the executive branch. In Part 3 I'll look at how the godly gobbledygook can be met and defeated and the Talibangelists kicked in their ample fundaments. In the meantime here's a tidbit from my latest book, the Messiah of Morris Avenue, in which its anti-hero, Reverend Sabbath, the ur-Talibangelist tells us what to expect on that Great Day...

April 27, 2006

From the STUPIDIEST IDEA ever file

Senators to push for $100 gas rebate checks
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Every American taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline, under an amendment Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote Thursday.

However, the GOP energy package may face tough sledding because it also includes a controversial proposal to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration, which most Democrats and some moderate Republicans oppose.

Democrats are also expected to offer their own competing proposal, as members of both parties jockey for political position on the gas price issue.

The energy package, sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, [ed note: isn't this reason enough to defeat it?] will be offered as an amendment to an emergency spending measure now before the Senate funding the Iraq war and hurricane relief, according to a senior GOP leadership aide.

Under Senate rules, either the GOP amendment or the Democratic alternative would probably need 60 votes to pass, which is considered unlikely. However, the amendments would give senators a change to cast votes on measures designed to help constituents being hit by high gas prices.

As outlined by the senior GOP leadership aide, the energy package would give taxpayers a $100 rebate, repeal tax incentives for oil companies and allow the Federal Trade Commission to prosecute retailers unlawfully inflating the price of gasoline.

The measure would also give the Transportation Department authority to issue fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles, expand tax incentives for the use of hybrid vehicles and push for more research into alternative fuels and expansion of existing oil refineries.

The GOP senators are also calling on the Bush administration to suspend deposits into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for six months to increase the nation's oil supply. President Bush announced Tuesday that he would halt new deposits into the reserve until after the summer driving season.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats on Wednesday called for a new energy bill and federal legislation to punish price gougers.

"There's no reason why we can't put forth a real energy policy that addresses the needs of this nation," said Rep. Bart Stupak, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, "from gouging to market manipulation to biofuels. We can do it."

And leaders of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday asked the Internal Revenue Service to let them examine the tax returns of the nation's 15 largest oil and gas companies, as part of a "comprehensive review" of oil industry profits.

"I want to make sure the oil companies aren't taking a speed pass by the tax man," said Grassley, the committee's chairman, in a written statement. (Full story)


So, who foots the bill for cutting over 200 MILLION checks? And, exactly how far to these assholes think $100 stretches? Come to think of it, isn't this just another way to give $$ to their Oil Company Lord and Masters? Or just a new way to excuse relaxing enviro regulations AND yet again trying to drill in wildlife sanctuaries (assuming, of course, that they aren't already doing so?) Are these people complete fucking morons?

It's HUSH money. It's BLOOD money.

By all means, give me $100. I'll donate it to the DNC. Assholes.

Conspiracy Theory (part two)

Part 1

Via Huff Po

8/08/05: Republican Bill Gives Billions In Tax Breaks For Oil Companies…



But independent energy analysts cautioned that with crude oil prices hitting new highs, consumers should not expect the new law to push down gas prices or reduce U.S. reliance on Middle East oil soon, if ever. Bush acknowledged that it will "take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems."

The new 1,724-page energy law, four years in the making, will provide $14.5 billion in tax breaks. The recipients will include producers of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power, as well as smaller incentives for consumers who use cleaner-burning fuels produced in this country. Analysts say it is unlikely most Americans will see a noticeable improvement in their energy costs in the short term. But supporters said the new law is designed to provide a long-term lift to the fuels of the future, including cleaner-burning coal and a new generation of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.

"It's not a bill for today or necessarily tomorrow -- it's for the future," said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). He was a chief sponsor of the bill and took part in the signing ceremony.

The price of crude oil hit a new high of more than $63 a barrel Monday.


And now . . .

Exxon Rakes In $8.7B Profit In First Quarter...
Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil company, said Thursday that higher oil prices drove first-quarter profit up 7 percent from the prior year.

Net income rose to $8.4 billion, or $1.37 per share, in the January-March period from $7.86 billion, or $1.22 per share, a year ago. Excluding a gain on the sale of an interest in China's Sinopec, the company's year-ago profit was $7.4 billion, or $1.15 per share.


4/27/06: Click Here To See Gas Prices…

How do you know an Xian apologist is lying? Their lips are moving.

or, their fingers are typing.

The delicious lovelies over at GifS uncovered a hoax by Tribalogue. Tribalogue is a group of True Beliere(tm) xian apologists who decided to show us exactly how filled with the love of Christ they are, by lying about Lofton's Debunking Christianity blog. They include the likes of psycho-misogynist Paul Manata and Evan may - king of the mind-numbingly bad circular argument. Here's the lie: flippant-dismissals.

Here's the proof that it's a lie:Triablogue Lies About “Debunking Christianity”


I will respond on our Blog, and I only skimmed through these comments [ed note: see comments on GifS's post], but let me say a few things. In my earlier book I was a Existential Deista and I wrote as one. In the progression of my thought I became an atheist, and my new book reflects that belief, so there will be descrepancies between them.

Triablogue is just doing what they do to atheists. When they cannot answer our arguments they try to discredit us. And they are trying to make a point about the gulibility of we atheists. Don’t buy into it.

Also, if Frank Walton is the originator of DC then he’s doing himself and his faith a great deal of harm. Does anyone actually think Christians would be supportive of this site?

Also, Triablogue just wrote a post where they do the same things to themselves, calling their own site a hoax.

Would you please post these comments as a separate post for those who may be wondering? Thanks you. And thanks for visiting us at http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/


Wait, wait, let me guess Tribalogue - it was all just a joke, right?


Seriously, this was rather funny. That anyone would give that much humor and wit credit to the likes of Frank Walton is comedy gold.

April 26, 2006

Stories of Discrimination

Found this via Repentence is Futile

Just in case anyone needed more prof that religion does not improve people.


Here are a few examples of discrimination against atheists in the United States and Canada over the last few years. These are from an article in Free Inquiry magazine by Margaret Downey. Something to tell any Xian who tries to remind you what a loving religion Christianity is.

Gray, Tennessee: Carletta Sims joined a financial firm in June 2001. Shortly afterward, two Baptist coworkers took offense upon learning that Sims was an atheist. Management granted the coworkers’ request to be assigned workspaces further from Sims. When Sims complained about a picture of Jesus left on her computer, management discharged her. Sims filed suit, seeking $250,000; U.S. District Judge Thomas Hull ruled that “religious discrimination (or preferential treatment of Christians) can be inferred.” In January 2004, the major bank that had since acquired the firm settled with Sims for an undisclosed amount.

Ada, Oklahoma: A Baptist student told a local newspaper she wouldn’t take professor William Zellner’s classes because he was an atheist, triggering a flurry of abuse. Zellner received harassing notes and telephone calls, some threatening. His car was vandalized, for a time on a daily basis. A local church sold “I am praying for Dr. Zellner” buttons. His children experienced shunning and beatings from religious children.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: First-grader Michael Bristor, an atheist, was denied an honor roll certificate when he refused to participate in an unconstitutional “prayer time” at a public school. For three years, administrators ignored the family’s complaints until a lawsuit was filed.

Caro, Michigan: In December 2001, Anonka—an open atheist who maintains a museum of Christian religious atrocities—appeared before the Tuscola County Board of Commissioners to challenge a nativity scene placed on public land. Commissioners responded angrily, saying she had no right to be present and proceeding to ridicule her. Anonka and her family suffered repeated harassment including annoyance calls, threatening calls and letters, and vandalism. In February 2004, the county settled in U.S. District Court, agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum and to issue a “public expression of regret.”

Pocopson, Pennsylvania: My own atheism came to prominence when I became involved in a legal challenge to a Ten Commandments plaque on the wall of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, courthouse. Neighbors organized a shunning campaign, some area merchants refused to do business with me, and I received hundreds of threatening letters and phone calls. (The depth of public animus against me became a subject of local news and magazine coverage.) I was forced to close my interior decorating business because of death threats that compelled me to stop visiting the homes of persons unknown to me.

Calgary, Alberta: An eleven-year-old boy (name withheld) experienced daily physical attacks and threats against his life by schoolmates—notably the sons of three local pastors—after protesting intercom readings of the Lord’s Prayer in a public school. He was repeatedly body-checked into hallway walls and attacked in the rest rooms. One pastor’s son stalked him with a butcher knife in an empty portable classroom. Despite the seriousness of this incident, no action was taken. The boy’s parents transferred him to another school for his own safety.

10 Reasons Republicans Are To Blame For High Gas Prices

April 25, 2006
By: Phil Singer, DSCC

http://www.dscc.org/news/roundup/20060425_gas/

If you’re looking for ten reasons that Republicans are to blame for high gas prices, keep on reading…

When George Bush took office in January 2001, the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.46. Today, the price is $2.91, a 100 percent increase over the course of the Bush presidency. [AAA Fuel Gauge Report, 4/25/06]

Under Bush’s watch, U.S. dependence on foreign oil has increased by nearly one billion barrels. [ EIA, U.S. Imports by Country of Origin and Annual Energy Outlook 2006]

Senate Republicans killed a Democratic proposal to make gas price gouging a federal crime. Without making price gouging a federal crime, the federal government can only prosecute oil companies if they can prove collusion to control markets, a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. [S. 2020, Vote #334, 11/17/05; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/18/05]

The Bush Federal Trade Commission has looked the other way when it comes to price gouging. Even during Hurricane Katrina, when price gouging was rather evident, the FTC investigation "found no evidence of collusion among oil companies in the 2005 gas price surge.” [ San Francisco Chronicle, 4/25/06]

The GOP Congress has ignored oil and gas monopolies: Since 2001, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee in charge of overseeing mergers, led by Mike DeWine,has held just one hearing - two years ago - to examine high gas prices.[ USA TODAY, 4/25/06; Judiciary Committee Hearing Schedule, accessed 4/25/06]

The GOP Congress has turned a blind eye to holding executives from the nation’s richest oil companies accountable. In November, when executives from the nation’s richest oil companies testified before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees, Republican leaders refused to force them to testify under oath. [Cantwell Release, 11/8/05; CNNMoney, 11/9/05; Fox News, 11/17/05, CNN 11/17/05]

Republican lawmakers who crafted the 2005 energy bill showered billions in tax breaks on oil and gas companies that that they later testified under oath they do not need. [Bloomberg, 7/29/05; Video Clip of March 2006 Oil and Gas Hearing, available here]

In December, Senate Republicans – with Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote – adopted a budget package that included $20 million in cuts to Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. [Vote 363, 12/21/05; House Budget Committee, Democratic Caucus Analysis, 12/22/05]

Oil and gas companies are constantly lining the pockets of Washington Republicans and GOP candidates. In the 2004 election cycle alone, the oil and gas industry contributed more than $20 million to Republican candidates and incumbents. In the 2006 cycle, this number has already topped $6 million. [Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 4/24/06]

The White House’s failure to properly plan for the war in Iraq has caused a disruption in the pre-war supply of 900,000 barrels of oil a day from Iraq, the largest single supply disruption that is leading to spikes in the price of oil. [CERA, 4/24/06]

Conspiracy Theory

I found this via A Rational Being. USA National Gas Temperature Map Anything look odd to you? The bluer the state, the higher the gas prices . . . . hmmmmmmmmm . . . .

It goes nicely with this from Daily Kos


If you want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and therefore improve our national security situation, you can't do it if you're a republican because you are too wedded to the oil companies.

We have two oilmen in the white house. the logical follow-up from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. there is no accident. It is a cause and effect. A cause and effect.

How dare the president of the united states make a speech today in april many, many, many months after the american people have had to undergo the cost of home heating oil? A woman told me she almost fainted when she received her home heating bill over this winter. And when so many people making the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised in eight years, which has a very low purchasing power, have to go out and buy gasoline at these prices?

Where have you been, mr. president? The middle class squeeze is on, competition in our country is effected by the price of energy and of oil and all of a sudden you take a trip outside of washington, see the fact that the public is outraged about this, come home and make a speech. Let's see that matched in your budget, let's see that matched in your policy.

You're separating yourself from your patron, big oil, cut yourself off from that anvil holding your party down and this country down. Instead of coming to washington and throwing your republican colleagues under the wheels of the train, which they mightily deserve for being a rubber stamp for your obscene, corrupt policy of ripping off the american people.



;)

My theme song . . .

Is oddly appropriate.

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.
But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!


For an evil heathen, anyway. >:)

April 25, 2006

Speaking of Failing Wars . . .

Recently in my area, the County Executive and gigantic pile of mob-connected human feces, Joel Giambra, made waves for saying that "certain" drugs should be legalized to cut down on crime. Now, he hasn't (to my knowledge) elaborated on exactly which ones should be legalized, but I imagine everyone over the age of 10 will be able to guess.

The DA immediately went on t.v. to say that crime wouldn't be reduced and pot is dangerous and blah blah blah, (I really like Frank Clark, but sometimes he's so shrill). despite the evidence that in some European countries crime had decreased with legalization. NYS Senator Dale Volker says that evidence proves otherwise - while both neglected to provide the evidence. Here's what I found: Crime Rates in the US Versus Other Nations

Then, This caught my attention.

Potheads and Sudafed

Once in a while even John Tierney gets it right (see full column below). The war on drugs - brought to you by the "Republican narcs" - is destroying the lives of good people.

Can YOU guess which one is which?Did you hear about the teenager who got life for smoking a joint - in America? In the spirit of keeping the stereotype of the bigot southerner alive, Judge Keith Dean (in Texas, unsurprisingly) a black teenager is given life in prison for violating his parole for smoking a joint, while a well-connected man pleaded guilty to murder – for shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back – got 10 years of probation.

And wasn't it remarkable that the FDA chose to release their politically motivated judgement on medical marijuana on 4/20, the national pot smoking holiday? The Drug War Rant has a good post about the FDA's rejection of science and embracement of reefer madness and another one on 'why the FDA is irrelevant.'

Meanwhile, here in Tennessee the government is in the habit of seizing the bank accounts and the homes of citizens long before they've had their day in court. The seizures are based solely on police reports which allege that marijuana was found. The state seems to specialize in seizing the homes of cancer patients allegedly caught with medical marijuana. Who needs a state income tax when you are free to steal the property of your most vulnerable citizens?

But what's this about Chong selling bongs to Cheney's Secret Service guards?

Potheads and Sudafed
by JOHN TIERNEY

Police officers in the 1960's were fond of bumper stickers reading: "The next time you get mugged, call a hippie." Doctors today could use a variation: "The next time you're in pain, call a narc."

Washington's latest prescription for patients in pain is the statement issued last week by the Food and Drug Administration on the supposed evils of medical marijuana. The F.D.A. is being lambasted, rightly, by scientists for ignoring some evidence that marijuana can help severely ill patients. But it's the kind of statement given by a hostage trying to please his captors, who in this case are a coalition of Republican narcs on Capitol Hill, in the White House and at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

They've been engaged in a long-running war to get the F.D.A. to abandon some of its quaint principles, like the notion that it's not fair to deny a useful drug to patients just because a few criminals might abuse it. The agency has also dared to suggest that there should be a division of labor when it comes to drugs: scientists and doctors should figure out which ones work for patients, and narcotics agents should catch people who break drug laws.

The drug cops want everyone to share their mission. They think that doctors and pharmacists should catch patients who abuse painkillers - and that if the doctors or pharmacists aren't good enough detectives, they should go to jail.

This month, pharmacists across the country are being forced to lock up another menace to society: cold medicine. Allergy and cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical that can illegally be used to make meth, must now be locked behind the counter under a provision in the new Patriot Act.

Don't ask what meth has to do with the war on terror. Not even the most ardent drug warriors have been able to establish an Osama-Sudafed link.

The F.D.A. opposed these restrictions for pharmacies because they'll drive up health care costs and effectively prevent medicine from reaching huge numbers of people (Americans suffer a billion colds per year). These costs are undeniable, but it's unclear that there are any net benefits.

In states that previously enacted their own restrictions, the police report that meth users simply switched from making their own to buying imported drugs that were stronger and more expensive, so meth users commit more crimes to pay for their habit.

The Sudafed law gives you a preview of what's in store if Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, succeeds in giving the D.E.A. a role in deciding which new drugs get approved. So far, despite a temporary success last year, he hasn't been able to impose this policy, but the F.D.A.'s biggest fear is that Congress will let the drug police veto new medications. In that case, who would ever develop a better painkiller? The benefits to patients would never outweigh the potential inconvenience to the police.

Officially, the D.E.A. says it wants patients to get the best medicine. But look at what it's done to scientists trying to study medical marijuana. They've gotten approval for their experiments from the F.D.A., but they can't get the high-quality marijuana they need because the D.E.A. won't allow it to be grown. The F.D.A. actually wants to know if the drug works, but the D.E.A. is following the just-say-know-nothing strategy: as long as researchers can't study marijuana, they can't come up with evidence that it's effective.

And as long as there's no conclusive evidence that medical marijuana works, the D.E.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill can go on blindly fighting it. Representative Mark Souder, the Indiana Republican who's the most rabid drug warrior in Congress, has been pressuring the F.D.A. to crack down on medical marijuana. Last week the agency finally relented: in return for not having to start busting anyone, it issued a statement stressing the potential dangers and lack of extensive clinical trials establishing medical marijuana's effectiveness.

The statement was denounced as a victory of politics over science, but it's hard to see what political good it does the Republican Party.

Locking up crack and meth dealers is popular, but voters take a different view of cancer patients who swear by marijuana. Medical marijuana has been approved in referendums in four states that went red in 2004: Nevada, Montana, Colorado and Alaska. For G.O.P. voters fed up with their party's current big-government philosophy, the latest medical treatment from Washington's narcs is one more reason to stay home this November.


Whatever your opinions are on this matter one simple fact cannot be denied - the war on drugs, rather like the war in Iraq - is a colossal failure. "Insanity", said Rudyard Kipling, "is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". Clearly, it’s time to try something else.

April 24, 2006

Hooray for Science!

The secret of being in rude health is intercourse

LADY PARTS!!!  RUUUUNNNNNNUNN!!!!!!!!!!
IT DOES not take a degree in medicine to work out that sex is good for you. Anything that is free, feels fabulous and leaves you glowing is plainly a good idea.But scientists are now beginning to understand that the perceived feel-good effects of sexual intercourse are merely the tip of the iceberg. Sex, they are discovering, can offer protection from depression, colds, heart disease and even cancer.

The latest addition to the body of evidence came last month when Professor Stuart Brody of the University of Paisley published a study showing sex can lower blood pressure.

"We're not just talking about the immediate effects of having had nice sex. The beneficial effects could last at least a week," says Professor Brody.

One theory is that intercourse stimulates a variety of nerves, most notably the "vagas" nerve, which is directly involved in soothing and calming. But you have to go the whole heterosexual hog. According to Professor Brody, studies show "penile-vaginal intercourse is the only sexual behaviour consistently associated with better psychological and physiological health".

Such sex has been linked, in women, to a heightened emotional awareness, possibly because the "love hormone" oxytocin is released. One study even found that semen is a mood-enhancing ingredient.

Doctors speculate that this is because semen contains several other mood-altering hormones — including testosterone, oestrogen, prolactin and several different prostaglandins — which can pass into the woman's bloodstream. This explanation, says Dr David Hicks, sexology specialist and consultant in GU medicine at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, "is certainly feasible". Condom-free sex has its drawbacks, of course: contracting a sexually transmitted disease or becoming pregnant unintentionally.

If you are dogged by the sniffles at this time of year, regular love-ins could work wonders for your immunity — condoms and all. Psychologists have found that people who have sex once or twice a week have levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) that are up to a third higher than their more restrained peers. IgA is an antibody that boosts the immune system and is the first line of defence against colds and flu.

The health benefits for middle-aged men are also particularly persuasive. Recent studies suggest that men who have orgasms twice a week are half as likely to die early as men who orgasm less than once a month.

The more frequently men ejaculate, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer, and if middle-aged men have sex twice a week or more they also have a lower risk of heart attack. Much has been made of the slimming and toning effects of a sexual work-out. In fact, sex probably burns off about the same number of calories per minute as a brisk walk. "You get all the benefits of exercise," confirms Dr Hicks. "This includes the release of endorphins, raised heart rate, moving the muscles and joints."

You might also look younger. "Regular sex makes you feel younger as you are more relaxed, satisfied and less stressed," says Dr Kevan Wylie, consultant andrologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

"Sex has huge mental benefits," adds Dr Hicks. "It's the outward proof that you are wanted, desired and valued." And if you feel sexy, you tend to look it, too.

Sex is not, sadly, a cure-all. "There is a danger in thinking that we can fix anything by leaping into bed," says Dr Petra Boynton, a psychologist at University College in London specialising in sex and relationships. "The fact is you are likely to have a much better sex life if you are healthy and happy, rather than the other way round." Still, it can't hurt to try.



So, what's religion got to offer again? Oh right, sexual repression.
Therefore god wants us to be sick. The Bastard! ;)

The Rapture Is Crapture (Part 1)

Because I'm a femi-nazi, evil commie pinko leftist, I LOVE the Huffington Post (HuffPo, from here on out). Here's a little opinino piece that made me giggle.

The Rapture Is Crapture (Part 1)
by Tony Hendra



Sorry, Jerry, sorry Pat. No James, Tony, Tom - and especially not you George - you're not going to be snatched up bodily to Heaven, nekkid as the day you were born, your shriveled grey Republican asses extracted by the Lord from your 1000-dollar suits, leaving them in a puddle on the drivers seat of your SUV or the pulpit of your mega-church.

You're not the elect, the just or even, we suspect, the saved, who because of your incomparable virtue will be whisked out of harms way by the aforementioned Lord when he comes to wreak genocidal revenge on billions of us unelect, unjust and unsaved. You're the latest in a millennia-long line of money-grubbing power-hungry hypocrites and hucksters who offer the lonely, threatened, frustrated, and as always, those with a limited supply of marbles, a lovely lie. Not only are they saved but those they hate, fear, envy and blame are damned! Not only will they be snatched up to heaven way ahead of schedule, but - A Special Final Days offer! - they DON'T HAVE TO DIE! That's the beauty part of the Rapture, a new American twist on an old, old Euro-scam: no massive heart attack, no terminal cancer, no being crushed by a truck on I-95. You're snatched up to heaven just the way you are.

(Though judging by my current book tour through the Bible Belt the Lord's going to get a hernia snatching up some of those Baptist babes).

The Rapture is an all-American, jumbo-colossal, Southern-style end-times racket. (Super-save me Jesus!) It makes all previous religious opiates look like Sominex.

The world's been ending ever since the Book of Revelation was penned, supposedly by the apostle John but more likely by some 1st century acid-casualty who'd eaten too much moldy bread. The Rapture however is new - dreamed up by one John Nelson Darby, an Irish lawyer turned Anglican priest, in the 1830s. His loopy biblical interpretations divide all history into seven ages or dispensations and declare - surprise surprise! - that Jesus' precepts are inoperative until he returns. This will be heralded by...the Rapture.

Darby was defrocked by the Anglican Church and most of his pals regarded him as deranged. But his ravings spread like kudzu in the fertile soil of 19th century American evangelical fundamentalism. A century and a half later the Rapture is taken as literal truth according to reliable estimates - eg Kevin Phillips - by a third of the nation, who, needless to say, will be the only Rapturees.

For two thousand years this kind of drivel stayed on the spittle-flecked straw-in-the-hair lunatic fringe but now in 21st century America, it's front and center, driving the domestic and foreign policy, the social and moral agenda, the spending power, and worst of all, the military, of the most powerful nation on earth. Just to get some idea of how it's affecting not just policy but the whole standing of the nation in the world, here's a few paltry matters seen in Rapturous light:

Since Christ is right around the corner global warming and Kyoto don't matter because the planet only has few years to go anyway. So belch out that pollution - Christ don't give a shit. Ditto drilling offshore in Virginia and Alaska, logging ancient forests, trepanning whole mountains to get at the coal. Gotta keep those SUVs and Macmansions running. Gotta have some place to be Raptured from.

A $7-trillion deficit and bankrupting the nation with debt doesn't matter either, because we'll never have to pay it down. Katrina doesn't matter because it's a biblically prophesied sign Christ is at hand. What's the point in saving lives that'll end soon anyway? Ditto eradicating AIDS. Anyway it's punishment for your vile abominations.

9/11 doesn't matter in fact it's desirable because it proves Christ is right around the corner. Ditto pitching a few nukes into the raging firestorm of the Mid-East because it will actually bring him back quicker!

As the hero of my new book (who happens to be the true Christ returned) puts it: "That's not Christianity, that's insanity."

The media-academic-publishing crowd in which I tend to move dismiss crap like the Rapture in offhand faith-bashing agnostic terms that may make them feel like pious heirs of the Enlightenment, but alienate their natural political allies, Christian moderates, or moderates of other beliefs who are as appalled by fundamentalist terror-squads as they are. People the Loyal Opposition desperately needs.

Almost as counterproductive are those who, being largely ignorant of the religious issues involved, get squeamish about coming down too hard on 'people of faith' even if they're transparently liars, killers and thieves. (Couple days ago in Huffpost Stephen Gyllenhaal in an otherwise admirable piece about the utter immorality of nukes did just this apropos Bush - being-a-man-of-faith-he-can't-be-all-bad kinda thing). Worst of all is the Fundamentalism Lite gang: add a little Baptist catnip to your left-of-center agenda and the right-of-center will desert the ship of state like rats. Forget that. You can get rid of the pandering poltroon in the Oval Office, but this behemoth is gonna sail right on.

Can it be sunk? Yeah, possibly. But I'm saving how for Part 2: When Judgment comes will The Left Be Left Behind?

April 21, 2006

Good Readin'

Some yummy tidbits for weekend snacking.

Anybody See My Morals? via Thoughts from a Sandwich.

Sex cues ruin men's decisiveness via A Rational Being (SEE!)

Global Sex Study - Gender "Equality" Means Happier Lovers also via A Rational Being

Sex and Guns Via Pharyngula "about what it would be like if Republicans were consistent in their attitudes towards sex and guns".

Old People Got No Reason an older post via Peeing in the Meme Pool about This story

The Oil Industry Is Running Away With Our Future via HuffPo

What if I’m wrong about Christianity? Via Debunking Xianity

Women Get Raped Because They're Stupid, Not Because Men Rape Them via Brutal Women. I love this blog.

Hate Crimes Are Not Special via Atheist Mommy Diary.

Raunch Culture via Pop and Politics (This is from Leanne Shear, the author of The Perfect Manhattan Read it.

April 20, 2006

Worst. President. Ever.

The Worst President in History? (very long, very worth it)

I am evil incarnate
George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

[ snip ]

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

[ snip ]

* * * *

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

* * * *

THE CREDIBILITY GAP

No previous president appears to have squandered the public's trust more than Bush has. In the 1840s, President James Polk gained a reputation for deviousness over his alleged manufacturing of the war with Mexico and his supposedly covert pro-slavery views. Abraham Lincoln, then an Illinois congressman, virtually labeled Polk a liar when he called him, from the floor of the House, "a bewildered, confounded and miserably perplexed man" and denounced the war as "from beginning to end, the sheerest deception." But the swift American victory in the war, Polk's decision to stick by his pledge to serve only one term and his sudden death shortly after leaving office spared him the ignominy over slavery that befell his successors in the 1850s. With more than two years to go in Bush's second term and no swift victory in sight, Bush's reputation will probably have no such reprieve.

The problems besetting Bush are of a more modern kind than Polk's, suited to the television age -- a crisis both in confidence and credibility. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam travails gave birth to the phrase "credibility gap," meaning the distance between a president's professions and the public's perceptions of reality. It took more than two years for Johnson's disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll to reach fifty-two percent in March 1968 -- a figure Bush long ago surpassed, but that was sufficient to persuade the proud LBJ not to seek re-election. Yet recently, just short of three years after Bush buoyantly declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq, his disapproval ratings have been running considerably higher than Johnson's, at about sixty percent. More than half the country now considers Bush dishonest and untrustworthy, and a decisive plurality consider him less trustworthy than his predecessor, Bill Clinton -- a figure still attacked by conservative zealots as "Slick Willie."

Previous modern presidents, including Truman, Reagan and Clinton, managed to reverse plummeting ratings and regain the public's trust by shifting attention away from political and policy setbacks, and by overhauling the White House's inner circles. But Bush's publicly expressed view that he has made no major mistakes, coupled with what even the conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. calls his "high-flown pronouncements" about failed policies, seems to foreclose the first option. Upping the ante in the Middle East and bombing Iranian nuclear sites, a strategy reportedly favored by some in the White House, could distract the public and gain Bush immediate political capital in advance of the 2006 midterm elections -- but in the long term might severely worsen the already dire situation in Iraq, especially among Shiite Muslims linked to the Iranians. And given Bush's ardent attachment to loyal aides, no matter how discredited, a major personnel shake-up is improbable, short of indictments. Replacing Andrew Card with Joshua Bolten as chief of staff -- a move announced by the president in March in a tone that sounded more like defiance than contrition -- represents a rededication to current policies and personnel, not a serious change. (Card, an old Bush family retainer, was widely considered more moderate than most of the men around the president and had little involvement in policy-making.) The power of Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, remains uncurbed. Were Cheney to announce he is stepping down due to health problems, normally a polite pretext for a political removal, one can be reasonably certain it would be because Cheney actually did have grave health problems.

* * * *

BUSH AT WAR

Until the twentieth century, American presidents managed foreign wars well -- including those presidents who prosecuted unpopular wars. James Madison had no support from Federalist New England at the outset of the War of 1812, and the discontent grew amid mounting military setbacks in 1813. But Federalist political overreaching, combined with a reversal of America's military fortunes and the negotiation of a peace with Britain, made Madison something of a hero again and ushered in a brief so-called Era of Good Feelings in which his Jeffersonian Republican Party coalition ruled virtually unopposed. The Mexican War under Polk was even more unpopular, but its quick and victorious conclusion redounded to Polk's favor -- much as the rapid American victory in the Spanish-American War helped William McKinley overcome anti-imperialist dissent.

The twentieth century was crueler to wartime presidents. After winning re-election in 1916 with the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War," Woodrow Wilson oversaw American entry into the First World War. Yet while the doughboys returned home triumphant, Wilson's idealistic and politically disastrous campaign for American entry into the League of Nations presaged a resurgence of the opposition Republican Party along with a redoubling of American isolationism that lasted until Pearl Harbor.

Bush has more in common with post-1945 Democratic presidents Truman and Johnson, who both became bogged down in overseas military conflicts with no end, let alone victory, in sight. But Bush has become bogged down in a singularly crippling way. On September 10th, 2001, he held among the lowest ratings of any modern president for that point in a first term. (Only Gerald Ford, his popularity reeling after his pardon of Nixon, had comparable numbers.) The attacks the following day transformed Bush's presidency, giving him an extraordinary opportunity to achieve greatness. Some of the early signs were encouraging. Bush's simple, unflinching eloquence and his quick toppling of the Taliban government in Afghanistan rallied the nation. Yet even then, Bush wasted his chance by quickly choosing partisanship over leadership.

No other president -- Lincoln in the Civil War, FDR in World War II, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the Cold War -- faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonized the Democrats. Top military advisers and even members of the president's own Cabinet who expressed any reservations or criticisms of his policies -- including retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill -- suffered either dismissal, smear attacks from the president's supporters or investigations into their alleged breaches of national security. The wise men who counseled Bush's father, including James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, found their entreaties brusquely ignored by his son. When asked if he ever sought advice from the elder Bush, the president responded, "There is a higher Father that I appeal to."

All the while, Bush and the most powerful figures in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security, one that the White House suggested included nuclear weapons. Instead of emphasizing any political, diplomatic or humanitarian aspects of a war on Iraq -- an appeal that would have sounded too "sensitive," as Cheney once sneered -- the administration built a "Bush Doctrine" of unprovoked, preventive warfare, based on speculative threats and embracing principles previously abjured by every previous generation of U.S. foreign policy-makers, even at the height of the Cold War. The president did so with premises founded, in the case of Iraq, on wishful thinking. He did so while proclaiming an expansive Wilsonian rhetoric of making the world safe for democracy -- yet discarding the multilateralism and systems of international law (including the Geneva Conventions) that emanated from Wilson's idealism. He did so while dismissing intelligence that an American invasion could spark a long and bloody civil war among Iraq's fierce religious and ethnic rivals, reports that have since proved true. And he did so after repeated warnings by military officials such as Gen. Eric Shinseki that pacifying postwar Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of American troops -- accurate estimates that Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush policy gurus ridiculed as "wildly off the mark."

When William F. Buckley, the man whom many credit as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes categorically, as he did in February, that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," then something terrible has happened. Even as a brash young iconoclast, Buckley always took the long view. The Bush White House seems incapable of doing so, except insofar as a tiny trusted circle around the president constantly reassures him that he is a messianic liberator and profound freedom fighter, on a par with FDR and Lincoln, and that history will vindicate his every act and utterance.

* * * *

BUSH AT HOME

Bush came to office in 2001 pledging to govern as a "compassionate conservative," more moderate on domestic policy than the dominant right wing of his party. The pledge proved hollow, as Bush tacked immediately to the hard right. Previous presidents and their parties have suffered when their actions have belied their campaign promises. Lyndon Johnson is the most conspicuous recent example, having declared in his 1964 run against the hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater that "we are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." But no president has surpassed Bush in departing so thoroughly from his original campaign persona.

The heart of Bush's domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more than a series of massively regressive tax cuts -- a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush's father once ridiculed as "voodoo economics." Bush crowed in triumph in February 2004, "We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket." The claim is bogus for the majority of Americans, as are claims that tax cuts have led to impressive new private investment and job growth. While wiping out the solid Clinton-era federal surplus and raising federal deficits to staggering record levels, Bush's tax policies have necessitated hikes in federal fees, state and local taxes, and co-payment charges to needy veterans and families who rely on Medicaid, along with cuts in loan programs to small businesses and college students, and in a wide range of state services. The lion's share of benefits from the tax cuts has gone to the very richest Americans, while new business investment has increased at a historically sluggish rate since the peak of the last business cycle five years ago. Private-sector job growth since 2001 has been anemic compared to the Bush administration's original forecasts and is chiefly attributable not to the tax cuts but to increased federal spending, especially on defense. Real wages for middle-income Americans have been dropping since the end of 2003: Last year, on average, nominal wages grew by only 2.4 percent, a meager gain that was completely erased by an average inflation rate of 3.4 percent.

The monster deficits, caused by increased federal spending combined with the reduction of revenue resulting from the tax cuts, have also placed Bush's administration in a historic class of its own with respect to government borrowing. According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever -- with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush -- sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" -- insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!

The rest of what remains of Bush's skimpy domestic agenda is either failed or failing -- a record unmatched since the presidency of Herbert Hoover. The No Child Left Behind educational-reform act has proved so unwieldy, draconian and poorly funded that several states -- including Utah, one of Bush's last remaining political strongholds -- have fought to opt out of it entirely. White House proposals for immigration reform and a guest-worker program have succeeded mainly in dividing pro-business Republicans (who want more low-wage immigrant workers) from paleo-conservatives fearful that hordes of Spanish-speaking newcomers will destroy American culture. The paleos' call for tougher anti-immigrant laws -- a return to the punitive spirit of exclusion that led to the notorious Immigration Act of 1924 that shut the door to immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe -- has in turn deeply alienated Hispanic voters from the Republican Party, badly undermining the GOP's hopes of using them to build a permanent national electoral majority. The recent pro-immigrant demonstrations, which drew millions of marchers nationwide, indicate how costly the Republican divide may prove.

The one noncorporate constituency to which Bush has consistently deferred is the Christian right, both in his selections for the federal bench and in his implications that he bases his policies on premillennialist, prophetic Christian doctrine. Previous presidents have regularly invoked the Almighty. McKinley is supposed to have fallen to his knees, seeking divine guidance about whether to take control of the Philippines in 1898, although the story may be apocryphal. But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions -- over stem-cell research, the teaching of pseudoscientific "intelligent design," global population control, the Terri Schiavo spectacle and more -- have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."

Bush's faith-based conception of his mission, which stands above and beyond reasoned inquiry, jibes well with his administration's pro-business dogma on global warming and other urgent environmental issues. While forcing federally funded agencies to remove from their Web sites scientific information about reproductive health and the effectiveness of condoms in combating HIV/AIDS, and while peremptorily overruling staff scientists at the Food and Drug Administration on making emergency contraception available over the counter, Bush officials have censored and suppressed research findings they don't like by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture. Far from being the conservative he said he was, Bush has blazed a radical new path as the first American president in history who is outwardly hostile to science -- dedicated, as a distinguished, bipartisan panel of educators and scientists (including forty-nine Nobel laureates) has declared, to "the distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends."

The Bush White House's indifference to domestic problems and science alike culminated in the catastrophic responses to Hurricane Katrina. Scientists had long warned that global warming was intensifying hurricanes, but Bush ignored them -- much as he and his administration sloughed off warnings from the director of the National Hurricane Center before Katrina hit. Reorganized under the Department of Homeland Security, the once efficient Federal Emergency Management Agency turned out, under Bush, to have become a nest of cronyism and incompetence. During the months immediately after the storm, Bush traveled to New Orleans eight times to promise massive rebuilding aid from the federal government. On March 30th, however, Bush's Gulf Coast recovery coordinator admitted that it could take as long as twenty-five years for the city to recover.

Karl Rove has sometimes likened Bush to the imposing, no-nonsense President Andrew Jackson. Yet Jackson took measures to prevent those he called "the rich and powerful" from bending "the acts of government to their selfish purposes." Jackson also gained eternal renown by saving New Orleans from British invasion against terrible odds. Generations of Americans sang of Jackson's famous victory. In 1959, Johnny Horton's version of "The Battle of New Orleans" won the Grammy for best country & western performance. If anyone sings about George W. Bush and New Orleans, it will be a blues number.

* * * *

PRESIDENTIAL MISCONDUCT

Virtually every presidential administration dating back to George Washington's has faced charges of misconduct and threats of impeachment against the president or his civil officers. The alleged offenses have usually involved matters of personal misbehavior and corruption, notably the payoff scandals that plagued Cabinet officials who served presidents Harding and Ulysses S. Grant. But the charges have also included alleged usurpation of power by the president and serious criminal conduct that threatens constitutional government and the rule of law -- most notoriously, the charges that led to the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and to Richard Nixon's resignation.

Historians remain divided over the actual grievousness of many of these allegations and crimes. Scholars reasonably describe the graft and corruption around the Grant administration, for example, as gargantuan, including a kickback scandal that led to the resignation of Grant's secretary of war under the shadow of impeachment. Yet the scandals produced no indictments of Cabinet secretaries and only one of a White House aide, who was acquitted. By contrast, the most scandal-ridden administration in the modern era, apart from Nixon's, was Ronald Reagan's, now widely remembered through a haze of nostalgia as a paragon of virtue. A total of twenty-nine Reagan officials, including White House national security adviser Robert McFarlane and deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver, were convicted on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra affair, illegal lobbying and a looting scandal inside the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Three Cabinet officers -- HUD Secretary Samuel Pierce, Attorney General Edwin Meese and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger -- left their posts under clouds of scandal. In contrast, not a single official in the Clinton administration was even indicted over his or her White House duties, despite repeated high-profile investigations and a successful, highly partisan impeachment drive.

The full report, of course, has yet to come on the Bush administration. Because Bush, unlike Reagan or Clinton, enjoys a fiercely partisan and loyal majority in Congress, his administration has been spared scrutiny. Yet that mighty advantage has not prevented the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges stemming from an alleged major security breach in the Valerie Plame matter. (The last White House official of comparable standing to be indicted while still in office was Grant's personal secretary, in 1875.) It has not headed off the unprecedented scandal involving Larry Franklin, a high-ranking Defense Department official, who has pleaded guilty to divulging classified information to a foreign power while working at the Pentagon -- a crime against national security. It has not forestalled the arrest and indictment of Bush's top federal procurement official, David Safavian, and the continuing investigations into Safavian's intrigues with the disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, recently sentenced to nearly six years in prison -- investigations in which some prominent Republicans, including former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed (and current GOP aspirant for lieutenant governor of Georgia) have already been implicated, and could well produce the largest congressional corruption scandal in American history. It has not dispelled the cloud of possible indictment that hangs over others of Bush's closest advisers.

History may ultimately hold Bush in the greatest contempt for expanding the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution. There has always been a tension over the constitutional roles of the three branches of the federal government. The Framers intended as much, as part of the system of checks and balances they expected would minimize tyranny. When Andrew Jackson took drastic measures against the nation's banking system, the Whig Senate censured him for conduct "dangerous to the liberties of the people." During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln's emergency decisions to suspend habeas corpus while Congress was out of session in 1861 and 1862 has led some Americans, to this day, to regard him as a despot. Richard Nixon's conduct of the war in Southeast Asia and his covert domestic-surveillance programs prompted Congress to pass new statutes regulating executive power.

By contrast, the Bush administration -- in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" -- threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism. Armed with legal findings by his attorney general (and personal lawyer) Alberto Gonzales, the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim. More specifically, this administration has asserted that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees. When Congress has passed legislation to limit those assertions, Bush has resorted to issuing constitutionally dubious "signing statements," which declare, by fiat, how he will interpret and execute the law in question, even when that interpretation flagrantly violates the will of Congress. Earlier presidents, including Jackson, raised hackles by offering their own view of the Constitution in order to justify vetoing congressional acts. Bush doesn't bother with that: He signs the legislation (eliminating any risk that Congress will overturn a veto), and then governs how he pleases -- using the signing statements as if they were line-item vetoes. In those instances when Bush's violations of federal law have come to light, as over domestic surveillance, the White House has devised a novel solution: Stonewall any investigation into the violations and bid a compliant Congress simply to rewrite the laws.

No historian can responsibly predict the future with absolute certainty. There are too many imponderables still to come in the two and a half years left in Bush's presidency to know exactly how it will look in 2009, let alone in 2059. There have been presidents -- Harry Truman was one -- who have left office in seeming disgrace, only to rebound in the estimates of later scholars. But so far the facts are not shaping up propitiously for George W. Bush. He still does his best to deny it. Having waved away the lessons of history in the making of his decisions, the present-minded Bush doesn't seem to be concerned about his place in history. "History. We won't know," he told the journalist Bob Woodward in 2003. "We'll all be dead."

Another president once explained that the judgments of history cannot be defied or dismissed, even by a president. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," said Abraham Lincoln. "We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."

SEAN WILENTZ

The consequences of REFUSING to change

This comes on the heels of my local paper printing letter after letter from indignant Roman Catholics about how their religion is just fine, and needs no changes.

Priest confesses to killing pregnant lover

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) -- A Mexican priest has confessed to strangling his pregnant lover after Easter Mass and cutting her body into pieces, a state attorney general said Wednesday.

Cesar Torres, 42, confessed to slaying Veronica Andrade Salinas, 22, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in the city of Nezahualcoyotl on Mexico City's eastern outskirts, Mexico state Attorney General Abel Villicana told a news conference.

Villicana read from a statement signed by Torres in which the priest described how he had been having an affair with Salinas and that she came to his parish residence to say she was pregnant and ask for money shortly after he had participated in Easter Mass.
The consequences of REFUSING to change

The two fought and Torres strangled his former lover to death. He then dragged the body to a nearby bathroom and, according to the statement authorities say he signed, used a kitchen knife to cut off her head and hack her body to pieces. He packed the pieces into plastic bags.


According to the confession, Torres loaded the bags into a pickup truck and dumped them near a municipal cemetery in Chimalhuacan, which like Nezahualcoyotl is in Mexico state.

Authorities in recent weeks recovered the bodies of five other women who had been slain and dumped in Chimalhuacan. Some of those victims had been mutilated -- sparking speculation a serial killer could be working in the area.

But Villicana said the testimonies of Salinas' family members led to his arrest Wednesday morning and evidence recovered around the parish helped prompt his confession.

He said Torres was scheduled to appear before a judge in coming days to be formally charged with murder.

The victim was expecting a girl at the time of her slaying.

She left behind two other girls, ages 1 and 6 months.



Despite all the calls from sane Catholics asking for the church to just reconsider the rules about priests (i.e. no marriage, no female priests, etc) - Ratsy and the mob say everything's A-OK. Because clearly, this is perferable to change. It's slightly hilarious that they refuse to change despite the pews and pulpits being increasingly hard to fill. In my area, RC Church after RC Church is closed or consolidated with another.

You guys just keep staying that dead end course. You'll push yourselves into irrelevance and oblivion.

April 17, 2006

An Atheist's Case for Israel

via The Atheist Jew

Given that I came extremely close to converting to Judaism and I made several very close friends in the process (and because I've spent some time in Israel) it holds a spot in my heart. I hear plenty of knee-jerk "Isreal is evel" garbage on the net coming from people who make it painfully clear they read only the stories about Rachel Corrie and have made up their minds.

For the more sane out there and those interested in learning the never-told other side of the story:

THE ATHEIST JEW: My Case For Israel, As An Atheist#links

Why I LOVE Buffalo, NY part two

This appeared in the Viewpoint section of Saturday's newspaper - you know, the day before Easter.


In this country, we have an evangelical Christian president, we have mega churches, we have God on the money, we have God in the pledge and we have a two-month buildup to Christmas. Exactly how is religion "under attack" in America? Simply being asked to live by the spirit of freedom and equality that this country is supposed to embody is not an "attack." Given that upwards of 80 percent of Americans are Christians, it's absurd to claim persecution.


For all the Christians who believe they are under attack in a country where they are the staggering majority, I have a little experiment for you. Go outside with a sign that says, "Straight, Christian and Proud" today, and tomorrow go outside with a sign that says, "Gay, Atheist and Proud" and we'll see who's really persecuted.


I get the feeling that the author reads atheist blogs. I’m sure I’ve seen the “experiment” discussed before. :)

April 16, 2006

This one's for Steve


Happy Easter! *hehe*

April 12, 2006

*psss* George Bush is a HUGE liar, pass it on

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/11/AR2006041101888_pf.html

Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for WarAdministration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary

By Joby WarrickWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, April 12, 2006;

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The authors of the reports were nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons -- who were dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers. Their actions and findings were described to a Washington Post reporter in interviews with six government officials and weapons experts who participated in the mission or had direct knowledge of it.

None would consent to being identified by name because of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized. Their accounts were verified by other current and former government officials knowledgeable about the mission. The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

Primary Piece of Evidence

The story of the technical team and its reports adds a new dimension to the debate over the U.S. government's handling of intelligence related to banned Iraqi weapons programs. The trailers -- along with aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq for what was claimed to be a nuclear weapons program -- were primary pieces of evidence offered by the Bush administration before the war to support its contention that Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction.

Intelligence officials and the White House have repeatedly denied allegations that intelligence was hyped or manipulated in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. But officials familiar with the technical team's reports are questioning anew whether intelligence agencies played down or dismissed postwar evidence that contradicted the administration's public views about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Last year, a presidential commission on intelligence failures criticized U.S. spy agencies for discounting evidence that contradicted the official line about banned weapons in Iraq, both before and after the invasion.

Spokesmen for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the specific findings of the technical report because it remains classified. A spokesman for the DIA asserted that the team's findings were neither ignored nor suppressed, but were incorporated in the work of the Iraqi Survey Group, which led the official search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The survey group's final report in September 2004 -- 15 months after the technical report was written -- said the trailers were "impractical" for biological weapons production and were "almost certainly intended" for manufacturing hydrogen for weather balloons.

"Whether the information was offered to others in the political realm I cannot say," said the DIA official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

Intelligence analysts involved in high-level discussions about the trailers noted that the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington, the analysts said. "It was hotly debated, and there were experts making arguments on both sides," said one former senior official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

The technical team's findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies' public statements on the trailers. A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington -- May 28, 2003 -- the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were "confident" that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production."

Throughout the summer and fall of 2003, the trailers became simply "mobile biological laboratories" in speeches and press statements by administration officials. In late June, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declared that the "confidence level is increasing" that the trailers were intended for biowarfare. In September, Vice President Cheney pronounced the trailers to be "mobile biological facilities," and said they could have been used to produce anthrax or smallpox.

By autumn, leaders of the Iraqi Survey Group were publicly expressing doubts about the trailers in news reports. David Kay, the group's first leader, told Congress on Oct. 2 that he had found no banned weapons in Iraq and was unable to verify the claim that the disputed trailers were weapons labs. Still, as late as February 2004, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet continued to assert that the mobile-labs theory remained plausible. Although there was "no consensus" among intelligence officials, the trailers "could be made to work" as weapons labs, he said in a speech Feb. 5.

Tenet, now a faculty member at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, declined to comment for this story.

Kay, in an interview, said senior CIA officials had advised him upon accepting the survey group's leadership in June 2003 that some experts in the DIA were "backsliding" on whether the trailers were weapons labs. But Kay said he was not apprised of the technical team's findings until late 2003, near the end of his time as the group's leader.

"If I had known that we had such a team in Iraq," Kay said, "I would certainly have given their findings more weight."

A Defector's Tales

Even before the trailers were seized in spring 2003, the mobile labs had achieved mythic stature. As early as the mid-1990s, weapons inspectors from the United Nations chased phantom mobile labs that were said to be mounted on trucks or rail cars, churning out tons of anthrax by night and moving to new locations each day. No such labs were found, but many officials believed the stories, thanks in large part to elaborate tales told by Iraqi defectors.
The CIA's star informant, an Iraqi with the code name Curveball, was a self-proclaimed chemical engineer who defected to Germany in 1999 and requested asylum. For four years, the Baghdad native passed secrets about alleged Iraqi banned weapons to the CIA indirectly, through Germany's intelligence service. Curveball provided descriptions of mobile labs and said he had supervised work in one of them. He even described a catastrophic 1998 accident in one lab that left 12 Iraqis dead.

Curveball's detailed descriptions -- which were officially discredited in 2004 -- helped CIA artists create color diagrams of the labs, which Powell later used to argue the case for military intervention in Iraq before the U.N. Security Council.

"We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails," Powell said in the Feb. 5, 2003, speech. Thanks to those descriptions, he said, "We know what the fermenters look like. We know what the tanks, pumps, compressors and other parts look like."
The trailers discovered in the Iraqi desert resembled the drawings well enough, at least from a distance. One of them, a flatbed trailer covered by tarps, was found in April by Kurdish fighters near the northern city of Irbil. The second was captured by U.S. forces near Mosul. Both were painted military green and outfitted with a suspicious array of gear: large metal tanks, motors, compressors, pipes and valves.

Photos of the trailers were quickly circulated, and many weapons experts were convinced that the long-sought mobile labs had been found.

Yet reaction from Iraqi sources was troublingly inconsistent. Curveball, shown photos of the trailers, confirmed they were mobile labs and even pointed out key features. But other Iraqi informants in internal reports disputed Curveball's story and claimed the trailers had a benign purpose: producing hydrogen for weather balloons.

Back at the Pentagon, DIA officials attempted a quick resolution of the dispute. The task fell to the "Jefferson Project," a DIA-led initiative made up of government and civilian technical experts who specialize in analyzing and countering biological threats. Project leaders put together a team of volunteers, eight Americans and a Briton, each with at least a decade of experience in one of the essential technical skills needed for bioweapons production. All were nongovernment employees working for defense contractors or the Energy Department's national labs.

The technical team was assembled in Kuwait and then flown to Baghdad to begin their work early on May 25, 2003. By that date, the two trailers had been moved to a military base on the grounds of one of deposed president Saddam Hussein's Baghdad palaces. When members of the technical team arrived, they found the trailers parked in an open lot, covered with camouflage netting.

The technical team went to work under a blistering sun in 110-degree temperatures. Using tools from home, they peered into vats, turned valves, tapped gauges and measured pipes. They reconstructed a flow-path through feed tanks and reactor vessels, past cooling chambers and drain valves, and into discharge tanks and exhaust pipes. They took hundreds of photographs.
By the end of their first day, team members still had differing views about what the trailers were. But they agreed about what the trailers were not.

"Within the first four hours," said one team member, who like the others spoke on the condition he not be named, "it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."

News of the team's early impressions leaped across the Atlantic well ahead of the technical report. Over the next two days, a stream of anxious e-mails and phone calls from Washington pressed for details and clarifications.

The reason for the nervousness was soon obvious: In Washington, a CIA analyst had written a draft white paper on the trailers, an official assessment that would also reflect the views of the DIA. The white paper described the trailers as "the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program." It also explicitly rejected an explanation by Iraqi officials, described in a New York Times article a few days earlier, that the trailers might be mobile units for producing hydrogen.

But the technical team's preliminary report, written in a tent in Baghdad and approved by each team member, reached a conclusion opposite from that of the white paper.

Key Components Lacking

Team members and other sources intimately familiar with the mission declined to discuss technical details of the team's findings because the report remains classified. But they cited the Iraqi Survey Group's nonclassified, final report to Congress in September 2004 as reflecting the same conclusions.

That report said the trailers were "impractical for biological agent production," lacking 11 components that would be crucial for making bioweapons. Instead, the trailers were "almost certainly designed and built for the generation of hydrogen," the survey group reported.
The group's report and members of the technical team also dismissed the notion that the trailers could be easily modified to produce weapons.

"It would be easier to start all over with just a bucket," said Rod Barton, an Australian biological weapons expert and former member of the survey group.

The technical team's preliminary report was transmitted in the early hours of May 27, just before its members began boarding planes to return home. Within 24 hours, the CIA published its white paper, "Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants," on its Web site.
After team members returned to Washington, they began work on a final report. At several points, members were questioned about revising their conclusions, according to sources knowledgeable about the conversations. The questioners generally wanted to know the same thing: Could the report's conclusions be softened, to leave open a possibility that the trailers might have been intended for weapons?

In the end, the final report -- 19 pages plus a 103-page appendix -- remained unequivocal in declaring the trailers unsuitable for weapons production.

"It was very assertive," said one weapons expert familiar with the report's contents.
Then, their mission completed, the team members returned to their jobs and watched as their work appeared to vanish.

"I went home and fully expected that our findings would be publicly stated," one member recalled. "It never happened. And I just had to live with it."

"Why Is There So Much Hate Inside Us?"

This comes by way of Pharyngula

Since almost all we see of theists is the hate-mongering type, or the drooling idiot type it's easy to forget that there are perfectly nice people out there who do believe in gods. Here's a little reminder of that from what I consider to be a surprising source.

Why Is There So Much Hate Inside Us?
Abdullah Al-Mutairi • Al-Watan

In the shop next to my house, there is a home delivery service which is run by an Indian. He is a good man, hardworking and devoted to his job. I talk to him whenever he delivers something to my house and he talks to me about the time he spent working in Abu Dhabi and of his dream to live in London.

Last week I asked him to deliver a newspaper to my house. When he delivered it to me, he asked me whether I wrote in it. I told him that I did and he asked me to write about why young Saudis hate foreign workers, particularly Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. He asked, “Why do they throw rocks at us when they see us in the street?” He said that in India they were taught to love others because that is the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I was moved by his words and promised him that I would write on the subject.

I took his question to my students and started a discussion in class. The students agreed that they had harassed foreigners, particularly South Asians, in the street. One said that seeing a worker in the street was a perfect chance for them to beat him up and then run away. Some admitted searching for foreign workers to beat up, throw eggs at and generally abuse. I asked my students why they behaved in this way, what was the reason. Some said it was just fun, nothing more or less. Some said it was because those people were weak and unable to fight back. Some said that their favorite pastime was to catch cats, kill them and skin them. I was shocked and disturbed by all this violence and wondered what was causing it.

The classroom discussion ended but my questions would not go away. Is this violence only committed by children or can we see it at other levels in other forms? How do older people deal with foreign workers? Do the workers feel that we respect them? Sadly, the rude and sarcastic way we often refer to them sprang to my mind. Can such relationships be called humane? Are they based on equality? Are they in keeping with the tenets of Islam?

Do we adult Saudis who sponsor and employ foreigners fulfill the conditions of their contracts — which both we and they have signed? How many housemaids never get a day off?

I remember a worker in the school where I work who was on the job every day and who had not been paid for six months. I remember another unpaid worker who asked humbly and politely for his dues and received nothing but curses and insults. It seems to me that our children’s violent behavior has its origins and roots in the behavior and attitudes of adults. My Indian friend’s question should have thus been directed toward all ages and not just at the young.

Are these things related to education? Can we blame this shameful behavior on a lack of education? The answer came all too quickly to my head. I remembered one of my colleagues, a teacher who belongs to a certain tribe. He believes that a student lacking a tribal name is a man with no roots and hence of no importance. Then I remembered a preacher who visited the school after 9/11 and warned the students against dealing with non-Muslims. I also remember a sheikh in a mosque who would not allow a foreigner to pray next to him — simply because the man was not Saudi.

It is not difficult to come up with examples of our relations with people in our country who belong to different religions and cultures. And I will not discuss our own relations with other Saudis. Many of us will not allow our daughters to marry someone just because he is from a certain place or because, for some reason, we look down on him. Behind all these examples are beliefs and thoughts toward “others” which glorify us and our egos and degrade them and theirs. Such a situation is fertile ground for the idea of hate and infertile ground for the idea of love.

Those brought up to love people will not throw rocks at them and curse them. Those brought up to love people will not degrade those who are different from them? Where is love in our lives? Has it given way to hate? What answer can I give my Indian friend? Is he going to understand that it will take a long time to change this culture of hate? I do not think that it will be easy since so many of us do not want to and so many believe they are unique and the best in the world. I remember when I was in England last summer, arriving at the front door of the house where I was staying. I saw a little girl standing outside the house next to mine. I wondered if she would curse me or throw stones at me or whether she would just look away in disgust. Instead, she carried on watering the flowers in the small garden; then she looked up and waved at me, with a big smile on her face. Could that have happened here?

There's a war on who now?

There's a WAR on Christianity, you know!!!

April 10, 2006

Xian Sue for "Right" To Harass Gays

Proving once again that Xian "love" is just Orwellian double-speak for "raging bigotry":


Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.
By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2006

ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

In that spirit, the Christian Legal Society, an association of judges and lawyers, has formed a national group to challenge tolerance policies in federal court. Several nonprofit law firms — backed by major ministries such as Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ — already take on such cases for free.

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 64% of American adults — including 80% of evangelical Christians — agreed with the statement "Religion is under attack in this country."

"The message is, you're free to worship as you like, but don't you dare talk about it outside the four walls of your church," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Assn. Center for Law and Policy, which represents Christians who feel harassed.

Critics dismiss such talk as a right-wing fundraising ploy. "They're trying to develop a persecution complex," said Jeremy Gunn, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Others fear the banner of religious liberty could be used to justify all manner of harassment.

"What if a person felt their religious view was that African Americans shouldn't mingle with Caucasians, or that women shouldn't work?" asked Jon Davidson, legal director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.

"Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

(this is only some of the first page - read on).