Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ruth Bader Ginsburg To Jim Bunning: I'm Very Much Alive

Bunning Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shot back at Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who predicted a year ago that she would "die soon."

"I am pleased to report that, contrary to Sen. Bunning's prediction, I am alive and in good health," she said in a recent speech, according to ABC News.

Last year, Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Bunning, speaking at a Republican dinner in Kentucky, speculated that it was "bad cancer," and that "usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer."

Bunning later apologized for those remarks, saying that he hoped "she recovers quickly."

"I apologize if my comments offended Justice Ginsburg," Bunning said. "That certainly was not my intent."

Guess which one is a class act and which one isn't?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

12 Apostles? Heh.

ZPD: I guess Xtianity doesn't get the jokes always been on them ... Always. Formatting is as random as always. :D .

Rejection of
Pascal's Wager's
Paul Tobin:
The Twelve Apostles

(enhanced ala the MetaWeb of old)
Maybe there is a case for Rufus - the forgotten 13th apostle,
from Dogma, played by Chris Rock to be made -

Like almost everything else in the gospel accounts of “Jesus'” life, we find problems with the accounts regarding the apostles of “Jesus”:
• Problems with the Names of the Apostles
◦ There are fifteen names for twelve slots. A problem not easily reconcilable.
◦ We do not even know if Matthew and Levi are the same person
• Problems with the Subsequent History of the Apostles
◦ Even in the New Testament, most of the apostles appear as merely names on the list of apostles
◦ The additional details about some of the apostles given in John are unhistorical.
◦ Subsequent Christian tradition had very little of historical value to add.

All these show that by the time the gospels were written very little was known about most of the apostles except their names and even of these there were already divergent traditions. Our suspicion about the historicity of there being twelve apostles is further heightened by the fact that the number twelve itself is a number pregnant with Old Testament symbolism. In short, Christianity which claims itself an historical religion spread by eyewitnesses to the miraculous events of “Jesus” life, has a problem with this: the eyewitnesses themselves may well be fictitious!

The Apostles: Fifteen Names for Twelve Slots

According to all the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, “Jesus” selected a band, twelve in number, of disciples to help him to preach his message. Each of the synoptic supplied a list of the twelve apostles while Acts listed the eleven left after Judas committed suicide. In all other respects, the list in Acts is identical to that in Luke, which is to be expected, since they were both penned by the same author. In the gospel of John the names of nine apostles can be found interspersed in the narrative. The table below gives a summary of the four lists.
The Apostles of “Jesus”

A glance at the table above will show that the four lists (I count the lists in Luke-Acts as one) are by no means harmonious. The only two lists that tally each other are those of Mark and Matthew. Luke's list differ from these by including a second Judas (son of James) among the twelve. His list excluded the name Thaddaeus found in Mark and Matthew. John's list agrees with Luke in including a second Judas but compounds the problem by including yet another apostle not found in any of the three earlier lists: Nathanael.

The apologists had tried to reconcile these discrepancies. First they claimed that Bartholomew is actually bar Talmai (son of Talmai) and that his name is Nathanael. (It is amazing that this explanation, if true, was first mentioned only in the ninth century CE) And then they claimed that Thaddaeus is the surname of Judas son of James. These reconstructions, of course (the avid will reader would have already gotten used to the method of the apologists by now), have no support whatsoever for it. In other words we do not know if Bartholomew is Bar Talmai, and we definitely do not know that Nathanael was the son of one Talmai. We definitely have no reason whatsoever to even believe that Thaddaeus was the surname of Judas son of James. These reconstructions are proposed solely to reconcile the four lists to one another and save the precious doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.[1]

This is not all. In ancient manuscripts of Mark and Matthew the name of the tenth apostle are rendered in two different ways: Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus. These names are not interchangeable and represent two distinct names. The balance of evidence from these manuscripts point to Lebbaeus being the original reading in Matthew and Thaddaeus in Mark. [2][a]

Is Levi the same as the apostle Matthew?

Another difficulty arises with the apostle Matthew. The gospel named after him gave an account of his calling:
Matthew 9:9-10
As “Jesus” passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me," he told him. And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with “Jesus” and his disciples.
The problem with that account is that Mark (copied by Luke) gave exactly the same story but supplied a different name for the tax collector:
Mark 2:14-15 (Luke 5:27-29)
And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with “Jesus” and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.
Luke's account also gave Levi as the name of the tax collector. In all the synoptic lists however, it was Matthew and not Levi who was placed in them. Christian apologists simply assumed that Matthew and Levi are one and the same person. Some had suggested that Matthew was the Christian name taken on by Levi after he followed Christ. This, however, does not resolve the problem. There is no evidence that Matthew was the Greek name for Levi. [4] In fact Matthew is as authentically a Hebrew name as Levi.[5] Note that Mark, by calling Levi the son of Alphaeus makes him very probably the brother of the apostle James son of Alphaeus. Nowhere in the gospel of Matthew do we find any hint of a family tie between Matthew and James. Mark in his list of the twelve apostles, gave the name of Matthew and not Levi. He surely would have stated that this Matthew was Levi, whose calling he narrated earlier, had that been the case.[6]

The Lacuna in the New Testament

Coupled with this uncertainty as to who exactly constituted the original twelve apostles, we are even more uncertain about what their subsequent histories were. In the New Testament, our knowledge of the apostles are mainly limited to Peter and the sons of Zebedee (John and James). According to the gospels Peter, John and James formed the inner circle of “Jesus” disciples. They were the only ones present to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28) and the prayers in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). [7]

Outside the gospel and Acts we have the genuine epistles of Paul attesting to Peter and John as the "Jerusalem Pillars" (Galatians 2:9). We also know from Paul that Peter was married (I Corinthians 9:5), he was the first to see the risen “Jesus” (I Corinthians 15:5) and that he traveled outside Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11).

Matthew, surprisingly, is mentioned only once outside the list of apostles given above, in the short passage in the gospel of Matthew 9:9-10. This passage narrates his calling as an apostle followed by “Jesus” having dinner at his house.

Two apostolic deaths are narrated in the New Testament. Judas Iscariot was the first apostle to have died (Matthew 27:9; Acts 1:18) by committing suicide after the crucifixion of “Jesus” around 30 CE. The next disciple to have suffered martyrdom was James son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2); he was beheaded by Herod Antipas around 44 CE.[8]
With no exaggeration, the above represents the sum total of (somewhat) reliable information about the apostles in the New Testament. The information about the rest of the apostles are either nonexistent or unreliable.

The apostles Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus [b] and Bartholomew appear only in the list of apostles given above. Nothing else is written about them in all of the New Testament! [10]

Added to these there are two other apostles that appear only as names in the Synoptic gospels and Acts: Thomas and Philip [c]. Thus as far as the synoptic gospels and Acts are concerned, these two are merely names, just like the other four above. Indeed the case with Thomas is even worse: it was not even a name! "Thomas" comes from the Hebrew T'hom, which means "twin". The seemingly additional surname in John 11:16 translated in the King James as "Thomas who is called Didymus" adds nothing new, for "didymus" is simply Greek for "the Twin"! Modern translations now give this passage as "Thomas who is called 'the Twin'". There is no evidence in contemporary literature that either Thomas or Didymus was ever used as names during that period. [12]

Andrew is mentioned, in the synoptics, only a little bit more than the other six we have seen above. We are told of his calling (Mark 1:16; Matthew 4:18) and his questioning “Jesus” at the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3). [d]

Thus in the New Testament, except in the gospel of John which we will examine immediately below, we are told nothing more about six of the apostles - Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, Thomas, Philip - except their names! Even Matthew and Andrew barely get any mention beyond their names in the list of the twelve apostles. Indeed these eight apostles are shadowy characters-we know nothing much beyond their names.

John's Treatment of the "Shadowy" Apostles

Three of the shadowy apostles mentioned in the section above, Thomas, Philip and Andrew, are given more prominent roles in the gospel of John. The passages concerning these apostles in John are as follows:
• Thomas
◦ John 11:16 The Raising Of Lazarus

Then Thomas who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us go, so that we may die with him."
◦ John 14:5 “Jesus”' Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper

Thomas says to him, "Lord, we do not know where we are going; how can we know the way?"
◦ John 20:24-29 Story of Doubting Thomas
• Andrew
◦ John 1:35-42 The Call of Andrew and Peter
◦ John 6:8-9 The Feeding of the Multitudes

One of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fishes. But what are these among so many?"
◦ John 12:21-22 Greek Believers in “Jesus” 
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see “Jesus”." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told “Jesus”.
◦ John 1:29-51 The Call of Philip and Nathanael
◦ John 6:5-8 The Feeding of the Multitudes 
“Jesus” said to Philip "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"...Philip answered him, "200 denarii would not be enough bread for each of them to get a little."
◦ John 12:21-22 Greek Believers in “Jesus”
◦ John 14:8 “Jesus”' Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper 
Philip says to him, "Lord, show us the father, and that suffices us"
Many of these incidents given in the gospel of John in which the names of these apostles are included are demonstrably unhistorical.

For instance the presence of Andrew (John 6:8-9) and Philip (John 6:5-8) in the miracle of the feeding of multitudes is merely the addition of names to an incident which never happened. The “Jesus” Seminar called this event "a narrative ritualization of a common practice" of “Jesus” sharing a common meal of fish and bread with his friends.[13]
Similarly the appearance of Thomas in the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:16) and his major role in the Doubting Thomas episode of the resurrection narratives are merely addition of his name to fictitious accounts. [14]

On other occasions the names of the disciples are merely added with questions for “Jesus” to break the monotony of his long discourses. This is the judgment of the “Jesus” Seminar on the questions of Thomas (John 14:5) and Philip (John 14:9) in the farewell discourse of “Jesus” during the last supper:
In the "farewell speeches", the fourth evangelist attributes to “Jesus”, he occasionally inserts dialogue in order to relieve the monotony of long, uninterrupted monologues. In this segment Thomas is the foil for the question about the way to the place “Jesus” is going in v.5. Philip functions as the dolt in v.8. These questions and “Jesus”' answers are completely alien to the historical “Jesus”, the crafter of parables, aphorisms, and witticisms. Both the words and the contrived narrative framework deserve a black rating. [i.e. "largely or wholly unhistorical" according to the rating system of the “Jesus” Seminar-PT] [15]
The appearance of the pair, Andrew and Philip, in the episode of the Greeks who were seeking “Jesus” (John 12:20-22) faces similar problems. The whole story seems to serve as justification for the existence of Gentiles in the second century church when there was no story of “Jesus” preaching to them. The obviously unhistorical element of a voice speaking out from the sky (John 12:28-29 - akin to the episode of “Jesus”' baptism in Mark 1:10-11) simply confirms the whole unhistorical nature of the story. The “Jesus” Seminar rated this episode as unhistorical (i.e. black). [16]

We are left only with the calling of Andrew/Peter (John 1:35-42) and Philip/Nathanael (John 1:43-51).

Let us look at the call of Andrew and Peter first. We have John the Baptist calling “Jesus” "the lamb of God" and "son of God" (John 1:29-36). The narrative mentioned that Andrew "heard this" and followed “Jesus” and later convinced Peter to do the same. Yet this is totally implausible. We know from the old sayings source Q (Luke 7:18-20/Matthew 11:2-3) that when John the Baptist was imprisoned, he actually sent out his disciples to ask “Jesus” "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" . Thus even after his arrest, the Baptist is still not clear who exactly “Jesus” was. To him pronounced “Jesus” as "son of God" and "lamb of God" the moment he laid his eyes of “Jesus” is being a little, to quote Winston Churchill, "economical with the truth". [17]

For the calling of Philip and Nathanael, there are several difficulties which suggest the story as it stands is unhistorical. Firstly we note that the pair of call stories (Andrew/Peter and Philip/Nathanael) parallels that found in Mark (1:16-20) where we have the pairs of Peter/Andrew and James/John. These strongly suggest that the early oral tradition felt that two stories of the calling of pairs are sufficient for purposes. The oral tradition went through a natural evolution and diverged into two strands where the names of the second pair become Philip/Nathanael in John and James/John in Mark. Secondly, we note that the name , Nathanael, is in itself suspect. As we have seen above, the name is not found in the list of the twelve apostles in the synoptics. The name Nathanael, which means "God gives", is very rarely found in Rabbinic writings. According to John March, these factors strongly suggest that John chose this name "more for theological meaning than historical exactitude". So apart from the name Philip, which is confirmed by the other sources, very little in the story as narrated by John can be confidently said to be historical.[18]

We can safely conclude that the gospel of John adds no new information to the shadowy apostles of the synoptics.

Later Tradition of Apostles
Outside the New Testament, there is even less reliable information about the twelve apostles. In the words of the historian of early Christianity, Professor Henry Chadwick, in the immediate aftermath of the death and "resurrection" of “Jesus”:

Most of the twelve disciples disappear from history. Only Peter, John, and James the Lord's brother are more than names.[19]

Another historian who has also written on early Christianity, Paul Johnson, concurs.

Only with Peter can we trace any activity; with John it is barely possible, though we can assume it since he was martyred. And it is quite impossible with the rest. James, “Jesus”’ brother, is an identifiable personality, indeed an important one. But he is not an "apostle", nor one of the "twelve". [20]

To fill this lacuna of stories regarding the apostles, during the period spanning roughly 150-250 CE, five apocryphal acts were written. These were The Acts of Peter, The Acts of John, The Acts of Andrew, The Acts of Thomas and The Acts of Paul. These are all works written chiefly to entertain, to instruct and to spread Christian propaganda. Very little in these works can be considered historical. [21]
• The Acts of Peter is preserved today only in scattered fragments in various languages. That the work is largely a fictional invention can be seen from its obsession with virginity and morbid hatred of sex - a trend that was developing during the time it was written. However it does seem to preserve some authentic tradition of Peter's martyrdom in Rome. According to this work, Peter was crucified on an upside down cross during the persecution of Nero. [22]
• The Acts of John is of little historical value since it confused the John the seer of Revelation with the apostle John.[23] John the son of Zebedee is some sort of an enigma. Tradition from late second century (Ireneaus [c130-c200] and Clement of Alexandria [c150-c215]) asserted that John died in Ephesus during the reign of Trajan which would put his death around the year 98 to 117.[24] There is an alternate tradition however, that placed his death very early; stating that he was martyred, together with his brother James, in 44 CE.[25]
• The Acts of Andrew is yet another work of Christian fiction. It story of Andrew's martyrdom in Patras Greece is considered unhistorical. The tradition that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross (St. Andrew's Cross) is based on an even later tradition; around the thirteenth century.[26]
• The Acts of Thomas narrates the story of Thomas' mission to India. Some scholars, about a century ago, argued for this historicity of this Acts due to mention of an actual Indian King Gundaphorus in the work.[27] However this view is no longer held today. The presence of the reference to actual historical personae is due to the fact that during the time the Acts of Thomas was written, there was a lively commercial and cultural exchange between Edessa, where the Acts was composed, and India. Thus there was ample opportunity for the author to pick up historical details to weave into his narrative.[28] One of the main reason why the Acts of Thomas is considered unhistorical is due to the presence of late Gnostic, Mandean and Manichean influence in the work.[29] [e]
The fact that there was little information available on the twelve apostles can be seen from the excerpt below from Eusebius' History of the Church:

History of the Church 3:1
Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of their Savior were dispersed throughout the world. Parthia, according to tradition, was allotted to Thomas as his field of labor, Scythia to Andrew, and Asia to John, who, after he had lived some time there, died at Ephesus. Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way.

It should be recalled that Eusebius (c260-c340) was the ecclesiastical historian of early Christianity. He had access to the vast library of early Christian works at Caesarea which he cited and quoted extensively in this book. Yet when it comes to the subsequent career of the apostles, all he could muster was the same four names as the apocryphal Acts: Thomas, Andrew, John and Peter! Furthermore he gave no indication that his list was incomplete or that it was merely an excerpt.[30]

After the publication of these five apocryphal Acts, the next generations of Christian hagiographers concocted even more grotesque and less believable Acts. There were Acts of Philip, Acts of Peter and Andrew, The Martyrdom of Matthew, The Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew and so on. Schneelmacher's New Testament Apocrypha Volume II listed forty of such works. These works were mainly expansions of the original five apocryphal Acts with no historical value.[31]

Needless to say, the traditions regarding the later ministries of the "shadowy" apostles are late and extremely unreliable. For instance, the apostle Matthew was supposed to have been martyred (according to different traditions) in Ethiopia, Persia and Pontus! [32] Like Matthew, Bartholomew also managed to die multiple deaths of martyrdom. He was supposed to have been martyred in India and in Armenia. Contradictory, late and unreliable traditions exist about all the apostles.[33] History knows nothing about them.


We thus know nothing about the subsequent careers of the apostles except for Peter, James and John. Even as early as the end of the first century, when the gospels and Acts were first composed, we have clear evidence that information regarding the apostles was already hard to come buy. We find fifteen names for the list of twelve apostles. Even if we confined ourselves to the twelve names given in Mark and Matthew the problem is not resolved. For at least six of these names are nothing more than names; we know nothing about Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, Thomas and Philip. With Matthew and Andrew we know only slightly more: that Matthew was a tax collector when he was called and that Andrew was Peter's brother. With Judas, there are problems with the whole story of his betrayal. [Which we examine elsewhere.]

Subsequent traditions have no more to add to these. The early apocryphal acts of Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas, contain very little that is historically reliable. The later ones were even worse and are merely fanciful expansions of these earlier works. Even the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius, could do no more than repeat the four names of the apocryphal acts when recounting what he knows about the subsequent careers of the apostles.

Two possibilities present themselves. The number twelve, as we have noted has rich symbolic value in Judaism being equal to the tribes of Israel. This means that the number twelve could be one that tradition assumed the number of disciples to be. [f] The other possibility, more damning, I think, to Christian belief, is that the mission of the twelve was a failure. We know today that a large part of Christian theology has its roots in the epistles of Paul who was not one of the original twelve apostles. The original apostles, the ones actually hand-picked by “Jesus”, made no impact on Christian history whatsoever.[34]

a. The editors of the UBS Greek New Testament decided to leave Thaddaeus as the reading for both Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:3. However as one of the editors explained the issue was not that simple. While they rated the Thaddeus reading in Mark as "A", meaning they are certain that this was the original reading here, the issue was "more difficult" with the reading in Matthew. There were four different types of reading here: "Thaddaeus", "Lebbaeus", and "Lebbaeus who was called Thaddaeus" and "Thaddaeus who was called Lebbaeus". Finally the editors opted for "Thaddaeus" but rated the reading a "B". [3]

b. The identification of James the son of Alphaeus with James the Less (Mark 15:40) or with James the brother of “Jesus” (Mark 6:3) is pure conjecture.[9]
c. Not to be confused with Philip, one of the seven Hellenist deacons in Acts (6:5; 8-4-50; 21:8).
d. Even this meager information is considered suspect by scholars. The “Jesus” Seminar called the whole backdrop of the thirteen chapter of Mark (at the Temple and then at the Mount of Olives) a "fictive setting" and the verses containing the question of Andrew of Peter (Mark 13:3-4) as a continuation of the fictitious narrative framework.[11]
e. We will not be discussing the Acts of Paul here as he was not one of the twelve apostles.
f. Sources hostile to Christianity preserved different numbers of apostles. The second century critic of Christianity, Celsus, mentioned that there were ten (or eleven) apostles. (see Origen Against Heresies 2:46 & 1:62) The Babylonian Talmud listed only five apostles: Matthai, Nagai, Nezer, Buni and Thoda (Sanhedrin 43a).[35]

1. Cadoux, The Life of “Jesus”: p105
Craveri, The Life of “Jesus”: p150-151
Nineham, Saint Mark: p117
Riedel, The Book of the Bible: p437
2. Fenton, Saint Matthew: p152
Nineham, Saint Mark: p117
3. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: p26, 81
4. Fenton, op. cit: p136
5. Craveri, op. cit: p153
6. Nineham, op. cit: p99
7. Riedel, op. cit: p428
8. Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p267
Riedel, The Book of the Bible: p435
9. Brownrigg, Who's Who in the Bible: The New Testament: p146
10. Goodspeed, The Twelve: p19, 41-44
Riedel, op. cit: p437-438
11. Funk,, The Acts of “Jesus”: p133-134
12. Goodspeed, op. cit: P 25, 43
13. Funk,, op. cit: p387
14. Funk,, op. cit: p409-411, 422
Ludemann, “Jesus” After 2000 Years: p510, 582
15. ibid: p422
16. ibid: p415
17. ibid: p368-369
18. ibid: p370-371
Ludeman, op. cit: p429-433
Marsh, Saint John: p135-136
19. Chadwick, The Early Church: p17
20. Johnson, History of Christianity: p33
21. Goodspeed, op. cit: p146, 163
Scneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha Vol II: p78-83
22. Goodspeed, op. cit.: p157
Perkins, Peter, Apostle for the Whole Church: p141-144
Riedel, The Book of the Bible: p431
23. Goodspeed, op. cit.: p152
24. Eusebius: History of the Church: 3:23 & notes p380
25. Craveri, The Life of “Jesus”: p152
26. Eusebius: History of the Church: notes p344
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p20
Riedel, The Book of the Bible: p433
27. Streeter, The Primitive Church: p29-30
28. Scneemelcher, op. cit: p325
29. Goodspeed, op. cit.: p158
30. Scneemelcher, op. cit.: p19
31. Goodspeed, op. cit.: p163-164
Scneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha Vol II: p426
32. Riedel, op. cit.: p437
33. Brownrigg op. cit: 42
Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity: p168
34. Guignebert, “Jesus”: p221
Nineham, Saint Mark: p115
35. Scneemelcher, op. cit.: p17

Friday, March 05, 2010

Pupdog Says Camp Time! And there's another Gay GOP "Gay Basher" outed!

Jason Linkins: McCain's
DADT Support Letter Signed
By A Bunch Of Dead Guys

On the matter of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) once promised that he would listen to "leaders in the military," telling people that the "day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." But when those military leaders came to him and told him it was time to change the policy, McCain retreated from his previous pledge, because it turns out he gets to pick and choose which military leaders he gets to heed.

And in this case, McCain has chosen the signatories of a letter signed by "over a thousand retired and flag general officers," among other folks. But, as noted by Amanada Terkel, that letter turns out to be something of an exercise in ghost whispering:

...a new Servicemembers United report obtained in advance by DC Agenda severely undermines the legitimacy of this letter. Some of the problems:

- The average age of the officers is 74. The "oldest living signer is 98, and several signers died in the time since the document was published." Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson added that only "a small fraction of these officers have even served in the military during the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' period, much less in the 21st century military," so it's hard to believe that they "know how accepting and tolerant 18- and 21-year-olds are today."

- "At least one signer, Gen. Louis Menetrey, was deceased when the letter was published and didn't sign the document himself. According to a footnote on the letter, his wife signed the document for him after his death using power of attorney -- six years after Alzheimer's disease robbed him of the ability to communicate."

Additionally, there's the little problem of those living signatories who "never agreed" to sign the letter, as well as a handful who have some remarkably backward views on the world in which we live, such as this guy.

Anyway, for his next trick, John McCain will produce an 1876 letter from General George Armstrong Custer that reads, "No, no, don't worry, I can totally take these guys!"

Cenk Uygur:
Michael Moore:
There's Going to
Be a Second
Crash (And
Glenn Beck
Can F--k Off)

We interviewed Michael Moore on The Young Turks today and he was not shy about sharing his opinions. Anyone surprised? He had very strong words for the Democratic Party, the state of our political system and Glenn Beck.

What he thinks of Democrats and Republicans:

You know, I tell you, these Democrats are disgusting. Wimps and wusses and weasels. You know, get some spine. This is why I have to admire the Republicans. They at least stand for something. They at least have the courage of their convictions. They get elected to office, they come into town, and they go "Get outta my way, there's a new sheriff in town. This is the way we're doing things. Get outta here." And then they do it. You know. I mean what they do is crazy. But dammit, they are good at it. We should take a page out of their book.

Can we fix the broken political and economic system in America?

It's not going to get fixed. There's going to be another crash. The commercial real estate bubble hasn't burst yet. That's going to burst. The credit card debt is so huge right now, it will never be repaid. That's a house of cards waiting to fall. So the crash of '08 is going to look like coming attractions. And we're in for a much, much worse time.

What he would have said to Glenn Beck if he was in Van Jones' place:

Fuck off! That's what I would have said. But again, you mentioned Glenn Beck, and of course, he's the guy that's called for my removal from the planet Earth, so...

Watch the whole interview here:

Read full transcript here.

There's one thing you know about Michael Moore, he's going to come strong. Unfortunately, I share his pessimism about the system. But I believe there is hope at the end of that tunnel. And as corny as it sounds, that hope is with the American people. We have to stop letting corporate interests buy our politicians and government officials. Make a change.

Robert Byrd:
Daily Mail
Editorial Resembles
'Barkings From
The Nether Regions
Of Glennbeckistan'

In a letter to the editor of the Daily Mail, published Thursday, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) blasted the West Virginia newspaper for an editorial the paper ran on earlier this week related to health care reform.

Byrd charged that the newspaper demonstrated a clear misunderstanding of congressional rules and procedures, which resulted in the publication confusing its readers.

The Democratic senator went on to write that the editorial more closely resembled the "barkings from the nether regions of Glennbeckistan" than the "sober and second thought" of his hometown newspaper.

From Sen. Byrd's letter:

With all due respect, the Daily Mail's hyperbole about "imposing government control," acts of "disrespect to the American people" and "corruption" of Senate procedures resembles more the barkings from the nether regions of Glennbeckistan than the "sober and second thought" of one of West Virginia's oldest and most respected daily newspapers.

Palin At Oscar
Gift Suite:
Sarah Palin
And Entourage
'Like Locusts'

Palin Oscar Gift Suite
Sarah Palin and her 'grabby' entourage were 'like locusts' according to witnesses at an Oscar gift suite.

Sarah Palin aligns her public image with the heartland, but it appears the former Alaska Governor has gone Hollywood. And when she leaves, she may be taking some of it with her.

On top of an appearance on the Tonight Show and rumors that she's shopping around a TV show with reality producer Mark Burnett, Palin and her entourage were seen partaking in one of celebrity's lushest rituals -- the Oscar gifting suite.

While the group was loading up on freebies, the Los Angeles Times reported that, "Palin's middle child, Willow, got her hair styled, receiving a blowout from Erick Orellana of the Chris McMillan Salon (Jennifer Aniston's longtime hairstylist)."

The Times also indicated that Palin was supposed to donate $1,700 along with all of her gift items to the Red Cross, which is currently helping with relief efforts in Haiti and Chile.

But E! Online insists, "we can assure you she did not give up any of her swag." They quote an unnamed vendor who claims that upwards of 20 people from the Palin camp swarmed the event. "They were like locusts," he told the entertainment news outlet.

According to AOL's Pop Eater, publicist Ben Russo of EMC/Bowery said, "she kind of cleaned the place out." They list out a number of her swag-grabs, including United Hair Care products, jewels from Pascal Mouawad, Skagen watches and a whopping 40 pairs of AIAIAI earphones.

It didn't stop there. reports that she also picked up a blue Kenya robe from designer Jenna Leigh, facewash and a pair of foam Bandal sandals.

Or, in common-sense language, Palin and her handlers, "practically cleaned out the suite."

Another unnamed source, from, says that the former Vice Presidential candidate was intent on spreading all that wealth around her own circle. "She insisted every person in her huge entourage get something, and there were assistants, nannies, security - insanity!" The same source also said that security swept the venue and would not allow photos, which are often expected by companies to use as promotion in exchange for the free products.

Bob Cesca:The Tea Party Is All About Race

I was going to open this piece with an analogy about the tea party groups and why they're treated seriously by the press and the Republicans. The analogy would go something like: "Imagine [insert left-wing activist group here] getting a serious profile in a mainstream newspaper, and imagine serious Democratic politicians appearing at their convention."

The problem is, when I really evaluated what the various far-left activist groups are all about and compared them with the tea party movement, there really wasn't any equivalency. At all.

Because when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that's left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there's no comparative group on the left that's similarly motivated by bigotry, ignorance and racial hatred.

I hasten to note that I'm talking about real racism, insofar as it's impossible for the majority race -- the 70 percent white majority -- to be on the receiving end of racism. That is unless white males, for example, are suddenly an oppressed racial demographic. But judging by the racial composition of, say, the Senate or AM talk radio or the cast members playing the Obamas on SNL, I don't think white people have anything to worry about.

This isn't an epiphany by any stretch. From the beginning, with their witch doctor imagery, watermelon agitprop and Curious George effigies, the wingnut right has been dying to blurt out, as Lee Atwater famously said, "nigger, nigger, nigger!"

But they can't.

Strike that. Correction. founder Dale Robertson brandished a sign with the (misspelled) word "niggar." So they're not even as restrained as the generally unstrung Atwater anymore.

Most of the time, they merely imply the use of the word. Rush Limbaugh referring to the president as a "black man-child," for example. Every week, a new example pops up on the radio and somehow the offenders are able to keep their job while Howard Stern is fined for saying the comparatively innocuous word "blumpkin." Limbaugh, on the other hand, can stoke racial animosity on his show by suggesting that health care reform is a civil rights bill -- reparations -- and no one seems to mind. And no, the impotence isn't an adequate Karmic punishment for Limbaugh's roster of trespasses.

The tea party is an extension of talk radio. It's an extension of Fox News Channel. It's an extension of the southern faction of the Republican Party -- the faction that gave us the Southern Strategy, the Willie Horton ad, the White Hands ad and the racially divisive politics of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. It's an extension of the race-baiting and, often, the outright racism evident in all of those conservative spheres.

But unlike the heavy-handedness of Dale Robertson and others, the tea party followers are generally more veiled about why they're so outraged by our current president.

In the New York Times this past weekend, David Barstow profiled a teabagger from Idaho:

SANDPOINT, Idaho -- Pam Stout has not always lived in fear of her government. She remembers her years working in federal housing programs, watching government lift struggling families with job training and education. She beams at the memory of helping a Vietnamese woman get into junior college.

But all that was before the Great Recession and the bank bailouts, before Barack Obama took the White House by promising sweeping change on multiple fronts, before her son lost his job and his house. Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated -- even manufactured -- by both parties to grab power.

Now you might be saying to yourself, I don't see the racism here. But if you eliminate all of the reasons for Stout's participation in the tea party movement as being contradictory or nonsensical, all that's left is race.

Let's deconstruct.

She claims to be against the bank bailouts, but the tea party is against the president's bank fee designed to recover the TARP money. They also appear to be against financial regulatory reform. None of this makes any sense. If tea partiers are against the bailouts, basic logic dictates that they ought to be in favor of getting the money back. Or do they prefer that the banks keep the money and orchestrate further meltdowns? Honestly, I'm not even entirely sure they realize that the bailouts and the recovery act (stimulus) are two different things. But they're also against the recovery act -- you know, whatever that is.

She also told the New York Times that she's tired of politicians "manufacturing crisis."

Right. Three things here.

First, where was she -- where were the teabaggers -- when the far-right endorsed and supported a massive increase in the size of government, unitary executive power grabs and unconstitutional measures fueled by fear-mongering over the very remote threat of terrorism? Crickets chirping. The odds of being killed in an airborne terrorist attack are literally 1 in 10 million. You're much more likely to kill yourself than to be killed by a terrorist.

Second, I refuse to believe that health care is a "manufactured crisis." People are going broke and dying every day. Even the most conservative estimates show that there are 9/11-level casualties each month due to a lack of adequate health insurance. The horror stories are readily available online. Just Google "health insurance horror story" and see how manufactured the crisis is.

Third, look at any bar graph of the economy as of one year ago or any basic jobs number and tell me if the crisis is manufactured. Hell, Pam Stout's son lost his house! How can she possibly suggest the economic crisis was manufactured?

I hate to single out one person, but Stout's incongruous anger is indicative of the entire movement.

From the outset, the tea party was based on a contradictory premise (the original tea party was a protest against a corporate tax cut). And when you throw out all of the nonsense and contradictions, there's nothing left except race. There's no other way to explain why these people were silent and compliant for so long, and only decided to collectively freak out when this "foreign" and "exotic" president came along and, right out of the chute, passed the largest middle class tax cut in American history -- something they would otherwise support, for goodness sake, it was $288 billion in tax cuts! -- we're left to deduce no other motive but the ugly one that lurks just beneath the pale flesh, the tri-corner hats and the dangly tea bag ornamentation.

Irrespective of whether the president passed a huge tax cut or went out of his way to bring Republicans into the health care process, the seeds of racial animosity from the far-right were sown during the campaign. In those lines waiting for then-vice presidential candidate and current tea party heroine Sarah Palin, their loud noises spread the pre-scripted lies, lies that entirely hinged on the president's African heritage. A white candidate would never be accused of being a secret Muslim. A white candidate would never be accused of being a foreign usurper. Only a black candidate with a foreign name would be accused of "palling around with domestic terrorists."

In the final analysis, when you boil away all of the weirdness, it becomes clear that the teabaggers are pissed because there isn't yet another doddering old white guy in the White House -- like they're used to. That's what this is all about.

By way of a postscript, one of the many faceless radio talk show wingnuts, Jim Quinn, this week called President Obama a "Kenyan wuss" who should be "slapped silly." The Kenyan lie and the "slap silly" insult aside, this president is no wuss. You know how I know? He's a black man who ran for president and won despite the growing mob of gun-toting militant white bigots like Jim Quinn who are sucking air in America. President Obama achieving this despite the hatred and threats against him takes serious guts. Guts that Jim Quinn and the tea party movement will never understand.

Jon Stewart Exposes

Fox News 'Balance,'

Goes After Sarah Palin

And Megyn Kelly (VIDEO)

It looked like Jon Stewart was going for some of his bread-and-butter Sarah Palin jokes on Wednesday night, mocking her appearance on NBC's Tonight Show and tossing in a little ribbing of Jay Leno.

But the quips about a Palin "Fair and Balanced" remark quickly turned into an amusing -- if not scathing -- indictment of Fox News programming, particularly host Megyn Kelly and her new mid-day program, America Live.

Stewart hounded the network about an apparent lack of balance, ranging from the show's promos (showing a clean-cut man in a Jesus t-shirt evidently representing the right, juxtaposed with an "angry nose-ring liberal lady" pointing at his face) to the actual reporting and clips that only showed one-sided opinions from a very homogeneous group. He emphasized that this was one of the few programs held during the network's allotted news time, as opposed to shows that are explicitly opinion.

The Daily Show segment ended with a flourish, showing clips that seemed to indicate an inconsistent approach at Fox News to polling, endorsing or dismissing polls depending on the results.



Roy Ashburn


Anti-Gay State Sen.

Got DUI After

Leaving Gay


Early Wednesday morning, State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Calif.) was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. Sources report that Ashburn -- a fierce opponent of gay rights -- was driving drunk after leaving a gay nightclub; when the officer stopped the state-issued vehicle, there was an unidentified man in the passenger seat of the car.

Ashburn has issued an apology for the incident:

"I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did. I am also truly sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me - my family, my constituents, my friends, and my colleagues in the Senate."

WATCH (h/t Josh Marshall: "Entering The Larry Craig Pantheon")

Anti-Gay Lawmaker

At Gay Club Before

DUI Arrest

Roy Ashburn Dui
Sacremento — Sources tell CBS13 that a state senator from Southern California was arrested for allegedly driving drunk after leaving Faces, a gay nightclub in midtown Sacramento, early Wednesday morning.

The California Highway Patrol pulled over Senator Roy Ashburn at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday after an officer noticed a black Chevy Tahoe swerving at 13th and L Streets.

The Sacramento County district attorney says Ashburn's blood-alcohol level was .14 percent when he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving near the Capitol.

Ashburn, a father of four, is a Republican Senator representing parts of Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino Counties, with a history of opposing gay rights

When the officer stopped the state-issued vehicle, Ashburn identified himself as a senator. He was arrested without incident and charged with two misdemeanors: driving under the influence, and driving with a blood alcohol level higher than .08% or higher.

A male passenger, who was not identified as a lawmaker, was also in the car. He was not detained.

Ashburn was booked into the Sacramento County Jail and released on $1,400 bond.

Ashburn issued a statement on the arrest Wednesday afternoon:

"I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did. I am also truly sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me – my family, my constituents, my friends, and my colleagues in the Senate."

Ashburn served six years as a state Assemblyman before being elected to the State Senate. According to Project Vote Smart, Ashburn's voting record shows he has voted against every gay rights measure in the State Senate since taking office including Recognizing Out-Of-State Same-Sex Marriages", Harvey Milk Day and Expanding Anti-Discrimination Laws.

I guess Asshats never learn ...