Saturday, December 13, 2014

Concern about torture misplaced says Christian writer

Recently I read of a study which indicated that beliefs often override facts. Fantasy overrides reality.  I'll be writing more about that later, but in this essay I'm aiming specifically at one so-called Christian who doesn't let his faith get in the way of his belief torture is a legitimate exercise!

His name is Mark D. Tooley.  He's a member of the United Methodist Church which at first I found hard to understand as the UMC is one of the more liberal mainline denominations.  But I soon discovered the Tooley is on a mission to "save" the UMC from itself.  He's working from the inside out.

And no wonder!  He was with the CIA for eight years.  I'd guess in those eight years he learned a lot about being a spook!  He learned nothing about being a follower of Jesus, which he claims to be.

Yesterday, an article of his appeared in The Christian Post, titled "Opposition to Torture Often 'Misplaced' By Christian Activists."

Mr. Tooley is not happy with the recent release of the U. S. Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat's report on torture ("enhanced interrogation techniques"). He claims (wrongly, I think) the debate about the EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) involved is "primarily historical."

Critics of the report's release "argue that it over simplifies the moral issues, ignores the exigencies of the immediate threat after 9-11, and at this point only aids America's terrorist enemies with additional propaganda tools, possibly endangering American lives."

Tooley also mentions that "Several former CIA directors reacted to the ... report with a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending enhanced interrogation."  Why is that not surprising?

In contrast, he quotes a "Liberal Episcopalisn" who in a "liturgy of atonement for enhanced interrogation", spoke of our security being based "not on threats of harm or weapons of war, but on the hope of God's love toward all people."

Methodist Mr. Tooley did not like that, just like he doesn't like to use the word, "torture."  So he said, "We can be confident in God's love for all people.  But until God sets forth the new heavens and new earth, temporal security will indeed require threats of harm or weapons of war."

Hmmm.  Obviously, Tooley doesn't trust his god to do his job.  So, it's back to the usual killing, maiming and torturing.

But Tooley continues to claim that torture (or EIT) "was a desperate attempt, with bipartisan support, to prevent another 9-11."  That's pretty much a crock.  And torture continued way past 9-11!  But here's where he really goes off the rails and his religion is shown to be bullshit, pure and simple:

"Even if immoral in full or in part ... the 39 captives subjected to it, one of whom reportedly died, should be seen in the larger context of 3000 killed on 9-11, tens of thousands subsequently killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and several million killed in wars globally across the last 12 years..."

So, Tooley, says what the hell, a little torture is nothing compared to all the rest of the crap that's being going on ... which, he fails to mention, was instigated by the same people who have been doing the torturing!  These people started the wars, continued the wars, and tortured their enemies!

And finally, "The sustained zeal devoted by some religious groups against enhanced interrogation of 7-12 years ago seems at best misplaced energy better expended on today's global and more admirable victims of unalloyed torture.'

Once again, here's a Christian claimant insisting the ends justify the means.  It's OK if we torture a few people because the really bad guys are torturing people around the world.

Sorry, Mr. Tooley, I gave up on your Christian god a long time ago and people like you are one of the reasons.  It's the principle of the thing, you see, and you don't seem to have any principles.  Jesus said "Turn the other cheek," but you don't agree with that.  Jesus said "Love your neighbor as yourself," but you don't agree with that, either.  Jesus said, "Do not seek revenge, for revenge belongs to God," but you don't give a crap about what Jesus said.

You are first and foremost a political animal with certain political beliefs which trump not only your religion but reality.  We've seen how your religion is a scam and the reality is that EIT doesn't work and produced nothing worthwhile.

But that doesn't matter, anyway, because it is immoral and wrong and in spite of Justice Antonin Scalia's belief the Constitution doesn't have anything to say about torture (an unbelievably stupid statement in itself), it is against everything we stand for in this country!  It is not WHO we are, said President Obama!

Finally, I admit that there are times when we must defend ourselves against those who wish to destroy us.  That is different that making stuff up to justify the invasion and destruction of another country, killing hundreds of thousands in order to ensure that a neighboring country doesn't get the oil!

Self-defense is one thing and yes, it is necessary.  Torture is not self-defense and is indefensible on moral grounds.  It is mostly an act of revenge and seldom, if ever, produces the desired results.

Mr. Tooley, you need to turn in your Christian card.  You can't even use the word, "torture," but rather  your guilt forces you to a euphemism, "enhanced interrogation techniques"!

Scott Walker - Son of a Preacher Man - Damn!

Originally, I thought that the governor of Wisconsin, a guy named Scott Walker, and the son of a preacher man, made a gaffe while speaking to a group of Jewish folks.  Evidently I was wrong.  It appears the gaffe came at the end of a letter to a Wisconsin person of the Jewish persuasion.

Walker wrote, in closing, "Thanks again and Molotov."


It is likely he meant to write Mazel Tov.

Damn, damn, son of a preacher man, is Mr. Scott Walker.

From Crooks & Liars:  About a month ago Walker gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he said, "My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it's better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they're able ... Caring for the poor isn't the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people into Medicaid."


A blogger by name of Chris Walker (not related to ol' Scott) noted that Scott got mixed up (again).  He wasn't quoting the Bible - there's nothing in the Bible about teaching people to fish"  He was referring to a rather well-known Chinese proverb.

And as Chris pointed out, in the New Testament, Jesus actually does give people fish.  He and his disciples caught the fish and then they gave it to those who were hungry without asking anything in return!

So, Walker the despot, ignorant as he is, tries to use the Bible to justify his defiance of the Feds and his callous unwillingness to help poor people in the State of Wisconsin receive medical care which would cost the State of Wisconsin almost nothing!

Damn, damn, son of a preacher man, is Mr. Scott Walker.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Message from Congress: Screw You America!

Here we go again.  Congress is talking about shutting down the government.  A funding bill must be approved ASAP so that doesn't happen.  Same old, same old!

The last election cycle was a minor revelation.  The revelation wasn't that very few people voted.  That's not unusual in this so-called democracy.  Most people just don't give a damn or they're too damn dumb to understand the issues involved.  The "minor" revelation was that too many voters cannot distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys so when they vote, they vote in the same rascals or even worse rascals than we had before.

Considering some of the new people heading to Capitol Hill, the country doesn't have a chance!

To reiterate:  There's a new funding bill in progress, and it needs to be voted on soon to avoid shutting down the government again!

The Republicans are in charge of the House and while the Dems have a slight majority in the Senate (which will change come January), there are enough DINOS in the Senate to allow a lot of nasty things into this funding bill.

First of all, Citigroup was allowed to write a provision which will allow Wall Street to screw the country once more, big time.

Elizabeth Warren put it this way:  "Who does Congress work for?  Does it work for the millionaires, the billionaires, the giant companies with their armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for the people?"

(That's a rhetorical question and we've known for a long time it works for the rich and powerful.  The common folk are lucky to get a nod as to their presence once in awhile.)

"Now the House of Representatives is about to show the worst of government for the rich and powerful.  The House is about to vote on a budget deal, a deal negotiated behind closed doors that slips in a provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system."

This is exactly what led to the economic crash of 2008!

This funding bill also cuts the EPA's budget by $60 million which will allow the polluters to continue to spew their deadly emissions into our atmosphere and our waters!  The bill even bars "the EPA from regulating methane emissions from livestock production."  Methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - is what livestock emit when they fart and it accounts for 10% of U.S emissions.

There's another huge travesty buried in the proposal's pages:  It gives the "trustees" of pension accounts the right to "slash the benefits of already retired workers to shreds."  That's going to hurt a hell of a lot of people.

One gets a feel for those Congress really cares about in the provision that blocks the Transportation Department from issuing regulations that require truckers to get two nights sleep before starting a new work week.  Regulations cutting truckers' work weeks from 82 to 70 hours is also forbidden.

There's more but these are some of the more egregious pieces of the proposed budget.

And the message from Congress is clear:  Screw You, America!

America - Land of Liars and Torturers

I'm very sad this morning.  There is something very wrong with my country.  Evil is deeply ensconced here.  It is terrifying because it's evil disguised as "good," or "necessary," or "proper" by those running the show.

Although I was a bit too young to participate in WWII, the war was ever present.  I remember food rationing and gasoline rationing, air raid sirens, and blackouts.  I remember newsreels showing indescribable horrors on the various war fronts.  I remember "Rosie the Riveter," and "Lend-Lease," and Pearl Harbor.

Back then, however, I was proud of my country.  We were engaged in a fight for the right, in what was, at least in part, a moral exercise to excise the unspeakable and despicable terrors unleashed by the satanic Nazis, the godless Japanese, and the unconscionable Italians.

In later years, I became intrigued with all the events and ramifications of the Second World War.  I read extensively about the events that triggered the war, the people involved, and the battles which destroyed cities and countries.  The Holocaust and Nagasaki and Hiroshima were etched into my brain.

Germany and the Nazis became a special area of interest and as an historian I immersed myself in books and movies about Hitler and his rise to power and the Nazi machine which turned against its own people, especially the Jews, and how the Nazis used torture routinely to gain information or simply punish.  How could this happen in a so-called "Christian" country?  Then I learned maybe it happened because it was a "Christian" country.  Hitler, a Roman Catholic, used Martin Luther's book, "Against the Jews" as a blueprint for Jewish genocide!

I remember how horrified I was.  Torture, I believed and still do, is truly evil, of the devil, and in no way justifiable.  The end can never, ever justify the means when it comes to torture.  While I knew there were isolated instances when American troops in both the European and Pacific theaters were involved in torture, those instances were,  I believed, an aberration, not policy.

In recent years, however, it seems torture was policy!  We've known for some time that some of our country's leadership - the war criminal triad pictured above - our military and our spy machine, the CIA,  has engaged in torture either just for the hell of it or under the pretense of obtaining information.  We've also known for some time that torture does not work, that claims made by then Vice President Cheney that information derived from torture was vital and useful in the defeat of our enemies was a crock.

My first disappointment with President Obama was his decision not to charge the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld gang with war crimes.  The evidence was overwhelming. This triad of war criminals did not even bother denying their affinity for and and their use of torture!

Now, the so-called "torture report" has been released.  It verifies and confirms that the United States of America, the home of the brave and land of the free, engaged in multiple instances of torture as a matter of course, a matter of policy, over the past 14 years.

Mr. Obama has made a public statement that this is a terrible thing, the is "not who we are."

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is wrong.  The evidence shows clearly this IS who we are.  And it breaks my heart.  FAUX News, the propaganda wing of the neocons and the whole of the Republican Party, Dick Cheney and officials of the CIA are not hanging their heads in shame begging to be forgiven for their dastardly deeds.

It's just the reverse.  They have gathered as a huge choir to tout the wonders and worthiness of torture.  Their voices ring across the land that torture is good and useful and it's not un-American but part of who we are!

Cheney lies as a matter of course; we've come to expect that.  He has a black heart and no moral compass whatsoever.  So when he defends the use of torture during the Bush regime, it's no surprise.

But it's still stomach-turning.  His words drench us like the flow from a broken sewer as he continues to lie over and over again.  Torture, in no instance, provided us with information that was useful in the defeat of our enemies.

Others follow his lead, including persons in and out of Congress.

And the CIA's leadership, bastards out-of-control and filled with bile, stroll out from the dark corners where they dwell, briefcases in hand, to defend the practice and their right to torture those they deem unsavory and a threat to the U.S. or themselves.

It's hard to believe.  This is my country?  This is the United States?  This is the land that I love?

Please tell me it's not so.  Please tell me it's all a bad dream!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Welcome to North Central Florida!

Thanks to Ybor City Stogie!

RWW News: Jindal Prayer Rally Welcome Message

Don't watch this unless you have a strong stomach.  This is a the freaking governor of Louisiana.  Who the hell does he think he is, the Pope?  Barf!

Rachel Maddow: Best Of Michele Bachmann FAILS

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sam Harris, Islam and Israel

Recently, David Samuels interviewed Sam Harris in Venice Beach, California. Harris' first book, "The End of Faith," had an explosive impact in this country and while many considered it a much-needed breath of fresh air,  others, especially conservative Christians, thought it proved he was the antiChrist.

The discussion between Samuels and Harris covered a number of topics, but there was one area I thought most interesting, insightful and helpful in trying to make sense out of our world.

Harris emphasizes that beliefs matter.  What a person believes gives impetus to his or her actions.   He offers the example of a bus driver who believes in the power of prayer to the extent that from time to time he takes his hands off the wheel because Jesus is driving.  Such a person is dangerous.

For some reason some people have a hard time accepting that beliefs matter. Samuels asked how Harris would respond to those who agree with much of what he has "to say about God and science and religion" and yet "find themselves politically sympathetic to obscurantist and often violent political movements like Hezbollah, which have no interest whatsoever in reason and science or in protecting the rights of gays or women?"

Harris notes again that beliefs matter.  Religious beliefs matter.  Religious beliefs drive much of the violence in the world.  There is a hesitancy to criticize religion and a willingness to accept the religions' claim that their beliefs are sacrosanct and above criticism, even though the word, religion, applies to various groups that are sharply divided on most issues.  "Islam is a religion and Jainism is a religion and they have few things in common, but what they don't have in common is a commitment to nonviolence, which Jainism has in spades and Islam doesn't have in principle.  That's a difference worth noticing."

So, we should not speak of all religions or political movements driven by religion as being the same or of equal worth.  There are important, even crucial differences between them.

On to Islam.  One of today's "memes" ...  "is that terrorism ... has nothing in principle to do with the religion of Islam:  It's coming out of other things, economic inequality, political hopelessness, people have been victimized by the Israelis or somebody else or by the legacy of colonialism; there's nothing about the actual doctrine of Islam that accounts for it.  That is untrue."

Untrue or not, there are those who continue to stress a "moral parity claim, which obviously the Israelis suffer from the most.  The Israelis are confronting people who will blow themselves up to kill the maximum number of noncombatants and will even use their own children as human shields.  They'll launch their missiles from the edge of a hospital or a school so that any retaliation will produce the maximum number of innocent casualties.  And they do all this secure in the knowledge that their opponents are genuinely worried about killing innocent people.  It's the most cynical thing imaginable.  And yet within the moral discourse of the liberal West, the Israeli side looks like it's the most egregiously insensitive to the cost of the conflict."

Harris then references what he calls the "pathology of liberalism," by which he means the notion often adopted by [some] "liberals" that "everyone everywhere more or less wants the same thing and ignores the endless supply of people with no obvious political or economic grievance who are willing to devote their lives to jihad.  What you don't hear Jihadis saying, 'I was just so desperate, I just saw no way out [f]or me or my family, and it just seemed like the only thing I could do to express my rage at an unfair system."

That isn't what we hear at all.  Rather the jihadis speak specifically of going to the Islamic paradise if killed in their pursuit of violence.

"There are people who will use human shields on one side, and there are people who will be deterred by other people's use of human shields:  They're still worried about killing the children of their enemies.  Those are two very different groups of people."

For too long, says Harris, religion has gotten by with the claim it is above criticism.  "What religion has had up until this moment is a different set of rules that apply only to it, which is you have to respect my religious certainty even though I'm telling you I arrived at it irrationally."

We can apply this to fundamentalist Christianity in the United States which continues to insist that they be exempt from community laws, Constitutional laws and common standards in order to practice the "faith."  That's what the Hobby Lobby case was all about.  And when they are challenged as to their insouciance regarding the rights of others, they cry foul.

Harris, however, is concerned in this instance with Islam.  He argues that if you can demonstrate why the Quran is worthy of respect and deference, please do so.  But, "I've read the Quran several times and it's not that good.  In fact, it's conspicuously bad as a moral map, and a spiritual map.  You can wander blindfolded into a Barnes & Noble, and the first book you pick off the shelf will have more wisdom than the Quran.  The Quran is uniquely barren of wisdom relevant to the 21st century.  It's got a few good lines about patience and generosity, and the rest is just vilification of the infidel."

He could, and has, of course, said similar things about the Bible.  In an article entitled, "Why Don't I Criticize Israel?", he notes that "when we're talking about the consequences of irrational beliefs based on scripture, the Jews are the least of the least offenders.  [...]  But let me remind you that parts of the Hebrew Bible--books like Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy--are the most repellent, the most sickeningly unethical documents to be found in any religion.  They're worse than the Koran.  They're worse than any part of the New Testament.  But the truth is, most Jews recognize this and don't take these texts seriously.  It's simply a fact that most Jews and most Israelis are not guided by scripture--and that's a very good thing."

In the United States, we have a number of theocrats who would, if they could, take over our government and remake it into a kind of Old Testament theocracy where violence would play a very important role.  They have told us this.  They have warned us.  The speak reverently of stoning those caught in adultery and executing gays.

These are dangerous people because of what they believe.  Their religion deserves to be criticized and mocked, not treated with respect!

Finally, in this article Harris speaks of the difference between Israel and Hamas. "The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies.  The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions toward them."  The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal, looking forward to the fulfillment of a Koranic prophesy when all Jews will be killed.

"The discourse in the Muslim world about Jews is utterly shocking.  Not only is there Holocaust denial--there's Holocaust denial that then asserts that we will do it for real if given the chance. [...]  There are children's shows in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere that teach five-year olds about the glories of martyrdom and about the necessity of killing Jews."

He goes on:  To appreciate the moral difference between Israel and her enemies, "you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it."

We know what Israel would do, because while they have they power to kill everyone in Gaza at any time, they forgo that option.  On the other hand, the Palestinians "have told us what they would do.  They tell us they would commit genocide.  They tell us they will kill every Jew in Israel."

And that is a world of difference!  It is not a trivial difference.  And it's a difference that impacts all of us.  9/11 is an example.  "For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don't want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way.

"The truth is, we are all living in Israel.  It's just that some of us haven't realized it yet."

For more of Mr. Harris' writings, go to his website here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Veritable Circus of Religious Freaks

First of all, Ben Carson.

Ben Carson is a 7th Day Adventist. While our Constitution says there shall be no religious test to hold a political office, someone who is a 7th Day Adventist should be considered very carefully by the voters, for this sect/cult is pure nonsense.  A person who believes in the tenets of Adventism must be considered a religious freak.

Carson, though, holds political views which are even worse.  He's ultra-right on the batshit crazy side of things.  For example, he said earlier this year that the United States is "very much like Nazi Germany."  What?  Yup.  The reason is that the Kenyan Usurper is using the government to "intimidate the population."

I'm not quite sure how that works seeing as how most of the dummies that voted in the last cycle voted for the same assholes who got us into this horrible mess to begin with and those assholes have been running the government for a long time.

Oh, wait, it's the IRS.  The government (i.e. Obama) is using the IRS to "punish" its opponents.  Hmmm.  Now how does that work? The Wall Street gangsters, who should be on a chain gang, are still intact and still stealing, still trying to grab even more of our money with their latest charade of insisting that any deal which would stop the impetus to shut down the government must allow them to continue with their shady financial practices!

Carson is part of that cadre of medical doctors who are dumber than doorknobs when it comes to politics, American history, and common sense (cf. James Inhofe of Oklahoma - climate change is a hoax, and Paul Broun of Georgia - evolution is the devil's work to send us all to hell).  Carson actually said that Obamacare was the "worst thing" since slavery.  Huh?

And when asked about the problem in Ferguson, Missouri, Carson opined that the reason young, unarmed black men like Michael Brown are getting shot by the police is because they "never really learn how to relate to authority in the proper way."

Yassuh master, that's what he said!

And then when the conversation turned to "a sense of entitlement," Carson blamed women's liberation.  "I think a lot of it really got started in the '60s with the 'me generation.''What's in it for me?'  I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women's lib movement."

It will be fun when the race for the White House begins.  Oops, I guess it already has.  This IS fun!

On to the sports arena.  Ray Rice, the Baltimore Raven football player, who knocked his fiancee out cold in an Atlantic City elevator last February is gonna be playing football again.  He’s been reinstated in the NFL.  

According to the latest version, his fiancee who is now his wife, claims the “assault … was part of God’s divine plan to raise awareness for domestic abuse in America.”

“God chose me and Ray for a reason,” she believes.


Greg Laurie, a wingnut preacher on the far right side of reality, claims there is “No Question These Are the End Times; America’s Role as Superpower Will Diminish as New World Order Forms.”

“Harvest Ministries Pastor Greg Laurie said Sunday his study of Bible prophecy and current events shows America will fade as the world’s foremost superpower in the last days, either because it will join with the antichrist or it will be diminished by the rapture.

Bible prophecy is really something.  Gotta wonder, though, why every Biblical prophet these days gets different meanings from the same material.

David Jeremiah, another far right lunatic, says “The End Times Are Here and Began With the Re-Establishment of Israel.”  The End Times began in 1948 says Jeremiah.  Poor Israel doesn't have a chance.  All the Israelis who haven't accepted Christ are going to hell and that road to hell got a jump start in 1948!

Back to sports, specifically golf.  Larry Alford, when he was 18, was supposedly a top golf star ranked up there with Tiger.  (The name is not familiar to me, so maybe that claim in an exaggeration.)  Then he was in a car accident - he’d been partying and drinking.  He was seriously injured, spent months in the hospital and underwent over 50 surgeries.

He lost his left arm.

But he’s found God or Jesus or both.  That happened because he started asking himself why this happened to him.  Somehow God told him one reason was he “never stuck with Christ in my walk through high school and college.”

He began praying about getting  back on a golf course, and found someone who designed a “one-of-a-kind” prosthetic that works pretty good.  

Now he travels around to golf tournaments raising money for charity by challenging other golfers on the course.

But the big thing is “I feel I have been saved because all those people who have been in accidents and lost a limb, God has put me in their life to encourage them that they can go on in life.”

And finally, a bizness called Samaritan Ministries - “a Biblical, non-insurance approach to health care needs.”  Here's how it appears to work.  You put in your money which is put into a pool and then when you need money for a health problem, they give you some of your money back.

But it's only for "committed Christians."  What follows is from their website:

If you are a committed Christian, you do not have to violate your faith by purchasing health insurance from a company that pays for abortions and other unbiblical medical practices. You can live consistently with your beliefs by sharing medical needs directly with fellow believers through Samaritan Ministries’ non-insurance approach. This approach even satisfies the Federal health care law’s (Affordable Care Act) requirement that you have insurance or pay a penalty-tax (see 26 United States Code Section 5000A, (d), (2), (B)).
The IRS will be issuing details explaining how your participation in health care sharing through Samaritan Ministries will exempt you from the penalty-tax. Since those details will not be needed until 2015 when you file your 2014 tax return, it may be a while before the information is released. Samaritan Ministries is working with the IRS to develop these procedures and will notify all of its members as soon as finalized.
Every month the more than 36,000 households of Samaritan Ministries share more than $9 million in medical needs directly—one household to another. They also pray for one another and send notes of encouragement. The monthly share for a family of any size has never exceeded $405, and is even less for singles, couples, and single-parent families.

Ha, ha.  It’s a socialist healthcare program for true believers!  Ha, ha!

If you want to know more, click here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward

1. Rebuilding Our Roads
2. Reversing Climate Change
3. Creating Jobs
4. Protecting Unions
5. Raising the Wage
6. Pay Equity
7.Making Trade Work for Workers
8. Cutting College Costs
9. Breaking Up Big Banks
10. Bringing Health Care to All
11. Ending Poverty
12. Stopping Tax Dodging Corporations


Our thanks to YborCityStogie for this post!