Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Bush Answers Plea to Stop Torture. "No," he says.
Bush can't understand why people think there might be Human Rights violations in Guantanamo. That's absurd! Today's headlines state that our President's response to allegations of torture was "It's absurd." The allegations are apparently absurd because they were made by prisoners "who hate America." This response, to me, paints a clear picture. If we really are the good guys here, then President Bush would have responded more compassionately and logically. It is illogical to assume that just because a prisoner makes an allegation, that it is patently false. Instead, he responded with a glittering generality: "The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world." This response scares the ever-living shit out of me. First, our President is changing the phrase "promote freedom" to mean, "enforce freedom with the use of massive military firepower." Second, he is responding to a serious allegation with platitudinous "truths" that he assumes are unquestioned. Well sir, we want to believe that our country is the good guys in the War on Terror. I really really want to believe that we are. However I have no factual basis to back up this belief, so I don't believe it at all. We are the bad guys, and you, Mr. President, are the leader of the bad guys. I used to think that the torture buck stopped with Donald Rumsfeld, who is the one who repealed interrogatory limitations in a memo in 2002. It was the repeal of those limits (which approved the use of some previously unapproved methods of interrogation) that has led to outright torture and debasement of human beings. Some of these atrocities were recorded on film in a little place called Abu Ghraib, where our troops were "promoting freedom" by marching prisoners around naked in front of women, making them wear dunce caps, harassing them with dogs, forcing them to sit in their own filth, piling them atop each other naked, etc. Here's your freedom, baby! Here we have hard proof that the use of torture is not absurd. But our President still thinks it’s absurd to claim that it is happening in Guantanamo, where the "detainees" are arguably even greater enemies of America. If President Bush truly and sincerely did not think that similar atrocities were being committed at Guantanamo, I believe he would a softer response to Amnesty International. Rather than poo-pooing the allegations, even though they were based in facts corroborated by our very own FBI. But that is not how he responded. Instead, he discounted the allegation as absurd, and discounted the source because it was made by people “who hate America.” The allegations were made by people released from prison after being unjustly held by America. Of course they fucking hate us! His response does not even have a hint of compassion, which tells me something very telling. Namely that he has no compassion. Ironically, in the same speech later he was talking about Russia's treatment of a celebrity criminal. President Bush had the huevos to say, "Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial." He's criticizing Russia for the same exactly thing that we are guilty of in Guantanamo. Many "detainees" (a word I hate) have been held there since 2001 without even being charged with a crime. "Innocent until proven guilty." Kiss my ass. Clearly President Bush is aware of the atrocities being committed in Guantanamo, and does not give a shit about it. Or he does give a shit about it because he likes it and wants it to continue. Or, there is a might smaller chance that he actually doesn’t know about it, but doesn’t give a shit about it anyway. In any case, President Bush’s response now puts the responsibility and the weight of those human atrocities square on his shoulders. Yet another reason to despise him. Like I needed one.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
A Democratic Domino Principle?There is a lot of rhetoric being tossed about regarding Syria. It is almost exactly the kind of rhetoric we heard about Iraq a year before we invaded them. At the time, it was clear to me that Bush had an agenda with Iraq, and that he was simply building his justification to invade them so Americans would go along with it. Could the same thing be happening now with Syria? Lately I'm seeing a completely unprovoked salvo of "fighting words" being tossed over to Damascus. Additionally, our troops have been heading over to that oh-so-convenient border. And now Zarqawi has gone missing and we're saying that Syria is harboring him. It all sounds so familiar that it's laughable. I can hear my detractors now. They'll say that what I'm suggesting is proposterous, and that I'm turning into a shrill conspiracy theorist. I'll innoculate my blog against that debate by saying I'm not sure this is going to happen. I'm only saying that I live in a country that has a history of attacking oil-rich countries without provocation, so I'm starting to feel a little bit skittish about Syria.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
President Bush, Stop the TortureAmnesty International is saying that Guantanamo Bay has created a "new lexicon for abuse and torture." They are - The Red Cross has found evidence of torture. - Released detainees are claiming they have been tortured. - Even the FBI has found evidence of torture. The only group saying that there is no torture is the US Military. No surprise there. Just because we were viciously attacked on 9/11 does not mean that our values should be abandoned. Those who don’t protest such treatment of these detainees would say that our enemy would not understand the language of peace. That may be true, but there is no proof that these are our enemies. Many have been held for years without being charged with any crime. These activities are making a mockery the values we cherish. Not since the McCarthy Hearings have we so thoroughly forgotten them.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2005
A ParadoxI just finished reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. This book is not to be confused with "A Brief History of Everything" by Ken Wilbur (on my soon-to-read list)Or, "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking, a book I've also read. Anyway, the book (the first book) will scare the shit out of you. It goes on about how humans have narrowly averted crisis after crisis, but alludes that the next crisis will surely do us in. It might be a volcano, or an ice age, or a massive meteor, or the fact that our poles are shifting polarity, but we're basically doomed. It struck me ... why is it most humans are blissfully unaware of how unlikely it is that we will last longer than a few thousand more years, but we all seem to have some secret belief that we will one day colonize space--which is our only hope of survival? It's as if we avert our eyes from the realistic problem, but have an unrealistic hope in the solution without consciously connecting the two. Strange. What? You don't have a secret belief that we will one day colonize space? Go off and read blogs about Hollywood celebrities and Gucci bags. Go! Be gone!
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Rubber Ducky ReligionI recently had the pleasure of an e-mail dialog with an old friend of mine who is still a Christian. He’s a very good fellow, able to reason, and not a strict fundamentalist. Below are some snippets from the conversation: I don’t see the four major religions you’ve cited as the only options of belief for a theist. Those four are merely the organizations that society pushed upward to success because they were comprised of the correct combination of “memes” that allowed them to succeed. Since you quoted Richard Dawkins, however, I assume you know about memetics. For each of the four religions you’ve cited (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism), there were probably 10,000 other variants. So the theistic world, as I see it, is a vast continuum of ideas floating around like an ocean full of rubber duckies. Over time, many rubber duckies sank because it had ideas that didn’t lend to that religion’s success. For example, there have been many religions that mandated celibacy. Curiously, none of them exist anymore. Does this mean that celibacy isn’t the “Correct option” on a path to god? No, it simply means that it does not contribute to a religion’s success with humanity. After awhile, some of these floating rubber duckies eat some of the other rubber duckies (and digest some of their better ideas) and those rubber duckies become sturdier, more robust, bigger, etc. Judaism is a classic case of this. Their notion of Hell evolved from simply “the pit” (in earlier OT references) to being a complex world with fire, wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc. The Jewish tradition of hell grew each time they were occupied by an outside empire. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, and (I think) Phoenician cultures each had a notion of hell, or the underworld, that the Jews “borrowed” for their own definitions of “the pit.” Consequently, these details made the purpose that “hell” served in their religion far more effective, and lent to the effectiveness of Judaism (and Christianity) as a whole. Hell is such a great motivator. The current, mainstream versions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity are ALL examples of this ongoing pairing, dropping, and synthesis of ideas that have, over time, made all four quite powerful within the cultures where they live. A Christian might argue that it is the hand of God that has seen its truth through to the current version of Christianity, and that is how it in fact survived. I would have to ask, if this were true, how God also allowed the other three (and for the purpose of this argument, the fourth behemoth of Buddhism) to exist as tempting pseudo-truths. I suppose one answer is that these are the result of Satan’s attempt to deceive the masses and that, for the most part, only the western world has not been deceived. This is just preposterous, and it’s cyclical reasoning. The fact that people use their local religion to express themselves spiritually is not bad, or wrong in any way. The only thing I take exception to is when they forget that it was a personal choice and extrapolate the “truths” they’ve learned to be globally true, and not relatively true. Saying “it works for me,” is incontrovertibly valid. Stating “It will work for you,” as a fact, is completely invalid. Later in the conversation … we were discussing the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection: Regardless of whether it happened or not, does the miracle of the resurrection prove the correctness of Christianity? The assumption is that since Christ was resurrected, Christianity (and not other religions) must be true. I would offer an alternative: if Christ were resurrected, it would be a powerful message from God to humanity that says many good and wonderful things, but nothing even close to what Mainstream Christians presume. To me it would be a message that would in no way “shut down” the messages prevalent in other religions. It’s not a huge leap of logic to think that maybe, just maybe, God performed a miracle and Jesus did rise from the dead. Whether he did or not, I don’t feel the need to refute the resurrection of Jesus. I rather like the idea that he did come back from the dead, so I don’t mind that people choose to believe it. The proof that I’m still awaiting is that IF Jesus did actually rise from the dead, how does that validate the vast and complicated belief system currently espoused by Mainstream Christians? There is very very little connection between the two. Modern Christianity is merely the biggest remaining rubber ducky in the ocean, from my perspective. So … the current church not is without the proverbial spot or wrinkle. However, just because the church is flawed does not negate its primary assertions. That would be bad reasoning. But I see many assertions of the modern church to be obvious confabulations built around Christ’s resurrection, based on two thousand years of human postulation and manipulation—not divine truth. How we interpret Christ’s resurrection is extremely speculative. Here is where I could find common ground with many Christians. I would even call myself “Christian” if I could gain a foothold into any definition of that word that is not rife with things I disagree so vehemently with. Were I to choose to believe in the resurrection, and then interpret God’s message therein in my own personal way, I might call myself a Christian but be damned to hell by the Mainstream version of people who call themselves Christians. I also believe is many of the things Buddha taught. I could easily call myself Buddhist. I even went to a “modern mainstream” version of a Buddhist meeting. I found myself (to my GREAT surprise) debating with the group leader right in front of everyone (he called me out!) about why what they were doing had very little to do with what Buddha actually taught. I brought up the basic fundamental truths taught by Buddha and no one in the room was familiar with them. It was hilarious and astounding. I see the differences between modern Christianity and the actual teachings of Christ to be just as vast. So why call myself a Buddhist? Why call myself a Christian? I really don’t think it matters. I doubt God cares. What matters (to me) is that I grow as a person to become as close to what I should be as I can. I call myself an agnostic but really I do hope strongly that there is a God. I believe there are many messages of redemption that we should all embrace and learn from as we are able. I believe that some people are assisted to this end by religion … any religion. I also believe that many religions also assist people in finding their more evil potential. The rubber ducky that represents what I believe sank long ago. People like structure. They like to be told what to do. They don’t want it to be “up to them” to learn and grow, etc. Still, I think there are lots of people who believe the way I do. Do your best, but keep it to yourself. Each of us has a spiritual journey that is as unique as we are.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Buh-Bye Writer's Block
Are you sure you have to go? OK, bye bye then. We'd drive you to the bus station but ... uhhh ... your visit was rather unexpected and we really have some other things to do. It will be so nice to not have you ... here ... anymore.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
What Would Jesus Censor?Outraged parents have prevented a marching band from playing (not singing) the song "Louie Louie". The Smoking Gun has done some excellent research into these horrible lyrics. This is another embarassing account of the stupidity of American values. My parents tried very hard to prevent me from hearing anything that wasn't "Bible Approved." This tactic will contribute to your childrens' sexual innocence about as well as not talking about food will prevent them from eating. In my case, I think it made me a hornier bastard than I would have otherwise been. Or ... maybe not. It certainly didn't make me a less horny bastard, that's for sure. Some people have raised an eyebrow at how permissive I am with my kids. I let them cuss (within reason), and don't hide their eyes when a sexy scene come on the TV (although I'm careful not to get movies that are TOO sexy). I'll admit that it is my instinct to try to prevent them from seeing such things, but I actually believe this instinct comes from my own parents policy, and not common sense. If you make something a mystery, kids will find out what you're trying to hide from them. They are more likely to experiment because you've made them very curious. I let my kids have a sip of alcohol if they ask. They don't even want any because to them it tastes like shit because they've tried it! My kids will do all the same stuff I did. Your kids will too. Censoring only teaches them to be duplicitous about it.