Apr 21, 2009

Those Who Prefer Pretending & Wilful Ignorance Are Doing a Disservice to Our Country

So, I had my suspicions before but didn't want to know that my girlfriend was cheating on me. However, the love letters now came out and, yes, she was cheating on me. I'm very upset about this. I really didn't want to know and didn't want to confront reality. I preferred to keep my innocence and willful ignorance. I'm also very embarrassed, because the world knows about the violation of my trust. How can I face the world today? At least up to now I could pretend everything was fine and deny the rumors!....

Anyway, in the news these days, the proof about torture is indisputable. Yet, the problem conservatives see is the telling not the crime! Horrors! It's not about the torture it's about being told our government lied to us regarding torture. Conservatives see this revelation as embarrassing and another proof that Obama is weaking American standing the world. Wait! This is bizarro world. It's not about the actual violation of human rights, the law of the land, and ethics, it's about being told about the cheating, er, the crime? Wow!

They knew and approved of torture!

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Torture is delivering punishment before someone is found guilty in a court of law! What does it say about the country of laws? Obama wrong when he says there will be no punishment for those who violated the law, ethics, and human decency. We should make an example of those who broke the law. Following orders isn't a good defense when it comes to human rights violations. How about those who authorized torture? How about those, like former AG Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, both of whom tried to re-define non-torture as anything that doesn't kill or destroys a major body organ! Pulling fingernails out or cutting off fingers woud not be torture according to these criminals.

Torture doesn't work, our experts know this; but even if it worked occasionally, we can't make a practice out of an exception! Our legal principle is to safeguard the innocent even if this means some guilty persons will go free. We don't admit confessions from torture in a court of law. Surely, if we put every arrested person under torture, we could obtaim more confessions... good or bad, real or imaginary facts.

I hear those who say waterboarding isn't torture, but this is not a very good defense since we prosecuted and executed Japanese soldiers & officers because they had waterboarded our own POWs.

At least, Congress hopefully can impeach a federal judge, Jay Bybee, who in the Bush administration authorized torture. Last week, President Obama released four Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture. The earliest one, from 2002, was signed by Jay Bybee, then an Assistant Attorney General and now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the memo, Bybee authorized CIA interrogators to, among other techniques:

  • --Slam a detainee's head against a wall: "any pain experienced is not of the intensity associated with serious physical injury."
  • -- Slap a detainee's face: "The facial slap does not produce pain that is difficult to endure."
  • -- Place a detainee into stress positions: "They simply involve forcing the subject to remain in uncomfortable positions."
  • -- Waterboard a detainee: "The waterboard...inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever."

These techniques are illegal by U.S. statute and international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bybee attempted to give legal cover to illegal acts, and thus broke the ethical, professional, and legal standards that should govern lawyers.
And, if you care to see a demonstration--under controlled circumstances where the subject has control as to when to stop this procedure--watch this video:


I see that some are trying to make the argument for torture on the grounds that is effective and it has kept the country safe since 9-11. Great! Why don't we turn this country into a big holding cell whereas Big Brother will keep us safe no matter what it takes... Tsk.

Apr 8, 2009

Insular Beliefs Wrapped in Religion Must be Re-examined. And, a Few Thoughts on the Message of Easter.

These days many Christian churches and other religious groups stage Passion of Christ events as well as participate in ceremonies to mark this important occasion. Tradition and culture in general often imbue people with sets of norms, but have you thought why most people don’t even think about what they’re doing? Change the circumstances or the framing and you might raise an eyebrow about certain practices. For instance, we wouldn’t probably find very appealing to showcase torture!

It’s the message that Christ’s crucifixion carries, not the barbaric, excruciating death inflicted upon the condemned, I’m told. So, what is the message really? And, I’m not joking. I’ve asked several friends of mine who are religious to explain it to me; they’re either stumped or begin to think about the message for the first time. God allowed his son to be severely tortured and killed in long agony, because God wanted to show his ..love for his creation, the humans! Or, that Jesus died for our sins! What kind of a moral lesson can I derive from these two examples of God’s behavior? It doesn’t even make sense why someone should (or could possibly) die to pay for the responsibility of others?

It’s about time we have to stop insulating ourselves in the confines of superstitious norms of ancient people who were so primitive as to accept torture as an everyday occurrence; that the universe was divinely ordained—which included fixed places in society—whereas most humans were unworthy and the elites were special due to their bloodlines or direct connection to the heavens.... No wonder why it took us thousands of years to transform some of our societies from the taboos and cruelty of the past.. while the conservatives of every society kicked and screamed!

I wrote this post as the conservatives and those steeped in religious fervor are criticizing president Obama for saying that the United States is not a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jewish, country but a country based on certain values. What's wrong with this statement? Nothing! The historically-ignorant want to believe that this country was founded upon the Judeo-christian values, but this is simply not the case.

Most of the founders were deists--believed in a higher entity but not a intervening xtian god--and made sure that the US Constitution has no religious test for public office. [Article 6, sec. 3] There's a separation of church-state, and the Biblical moral code is not the legal code of our country! From the 10 Commandments, we have "don't steal" and "don't kill", "no perjury," but these are common sense clauses anyway, and I'm sure these principles predated Moses. The rest of the Commandments [they differ among Catholics, Protestants, and Jews] are left in the "holy" book.

A few words about holy books. If anyone has any knowledge of human history, and the world as it is today, he has to question the design or the creator; horrible events [some natural but deadly diseases & catastrophes] are everyday occurrence. Some design you may ponder. Or, when you examine the crimes in the name of God and because of religion, you may understand better what Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are saying about religion.

If you are to look for genocide & ethnic cleansing, for murder of non-believers, for slavery, for women's subjugation, for torture, for killing
en mass, for nasty-brutish-short lives, for prostitution, and for killing children as punishment for the sins of their parents, you need not look further than the holy book placed in the center of every church, mosque and temple. These moral principles are god-given. Plus, a few other demands such as no clothing of "unnatural fibers" and no boiling a calf in its mother's milk!

It's no accident that the most fervent believers are also the most ignorant about science; they're the most phobic of anything out of a strict norm. They fight science on the basis of uneducated, prejudicial beliefs, and the leaders of that flock encourage it! This is a disservice to humanity. Organized religion prefers it that way. After all, sheep are easier to control. No real effort is undertaken to inform or promote rational thinking. Why? The more a person accepts the literal truth of the holy book the better it is. We are told that faith [read: be satisfied with the absence of evidence and reason] is a virtue!!!!

On the other hand, I think we are making some progress, in that, many religious people see their faith and its moral principles as a supermarket of convenience--pick & choose according to personal preference! That is good, because I don't think the death practices--or any other torture, cruel & unusual punishment--religion has instructed humankind to practice is appropriate in a modern society. The world is a better place today precicely because we've distanced ourselves from the confines of dogma and prejudice.

Update: Along the same ideas, I wrote an editorial, A Miracle That People Want, referring to the annual miracle of the Holy Light! There's another thread of discussions there.