Saturday, May 30, 2009

Liberty Limited at Liberty University

Earlier this month Liberty University, the Christian Evangelical university founded by the late Jerry Falwell, informed the student Democrats Club that it is no longer recognized as a university club. In an e-mail to the Democrats Club the vice-president of student affairs stated, "I must inform you that the College democrats' club is no longer going to be recognized as a Liberty University club. We are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by Liberty University. I expressed these concerns when we met, earlier in the spring semester. The Liberty Way states, "It is the duty of every student to respect Liberty's Statement of Doctrine and Purpose. They may not engage in any activity on or off campus that would compromise the testimony or reputation of the University or cause disruption to Liberty's Christian learning environment." The Liberty University School of Law had been working on a policy to govern their clubs and organizations for quite some time. They have now completed that policy and we have adopted it for Liberty University as well. Now that it has been adopted and will apply to all clubs and organizations, it is clear that this club does not comply."

When the bigoted and self-righteous Jerry Falwell chose Liberty as the name for his university, whose liberty did he have in mind? He certainly didn't believe in liberty for his followers and university students.

As a tax exempt religious organization the university is barred from participating in politics and advocating for any political party or candidate. Banning the student Democrats Club because its parent organization is the Democratic Party violates the conditions under which the university receives its tax exemption. Liberty University students who receive federal financial aid or student loans that are guaranteed by the federal government are at risk of losing such funding.

Liberty University can advocate against abortion and same-sex marriage but it cannot advocate for or against any political party or candidate and continue to be recognized as a religious organization. Liberty University and its supporters will complain that their religious freedom is under attack by the Left, by the Democratic Party and by anti-Christians but this will simply not be true.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Military Suicide Rate is High

The suicide rate among active duty military personnel is higher than in the general population. Last year, there were 140 such suicides. That is alarmingly high but the suicide rate among active duty military has always been high, in fact, the suicide rate among inactive veterans is higher than in the general population. This could suggest either that personnel who join the military are already more predisposed to suicide or that the active duty experience causes a change in the personnel that results in an increase in suicide rate and that this change is permanent for all or most of the personnel.

The military is struggling to reduce the incidence of suicide but is still not able to identify all of those at risk of or already contemplating suicide.

When I was in boot camp in San Diego in 1965, five recruits committed suicide and many more attempted it. I was in boot camp for 14 weeks. There were 80 recruits in my company at the start of training. Three of them had nervous breakdowns early on in the training and were discharged. A fourth was sent to a hospital for several weeks before restarting training shortly before my company graduated.

I've always thought that the military should have been able to identify during initial evaluations those people who were at greater risk of a mental breakdown and suicide. It was my impression that the military didn't really care. One night in boot camp while I was on guard duty one of the recruits from another company in my battalion pretended to commit suicide. He cut his wrist with a razor but it wasn't deep enough to do real harm. When the recruit was brought before the battalian duty officer, an older mustang officer, he chewed out the recruit. He told him that the next time he tried to commit suicide he had to cut deeper and cut his throat instead of his wrist at which point the duty officer swiped an object across the recruit's neck as if to cut his throat for him. The recruit fainted. That's how sensitive the military was to the issue when I was a recruit.

Surely, the military is more sensitive and more capable than they were 45 years ago but the statistics show that they are far from being adequately capable.

I suspect that some people think that men aren't made of the same tough stuff that they used to be made of and their weakness contributes to the high suicide rate. That wasn't true 45 years ago and I'm sure that is not true today.

Conservative Mancow Muller says Waterboarding Torture

On May 22, 2009 Erich "Mancow" Muller, a conservative radio talk show host submitted himself for waterboarding. "I want to find out if it's torture," Mancow told his listeners Friday morning, adding that he hoped his on-air test would help prove that waterboarding did not, in fact, constitute torture."

I watched a video of his waterboarding, which was administered by Marine Sergeant Clay South. Muller stopped the waterboarding after 6 to 7 seconds and was visably shaken by the experience. Muller stated, "It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back...It was instantaneous...and I don't want to say this: absolutely torture."

Vanity Fair writer Christopher Hitchens submitted himself to the same thing last year and came to the same conclusion. In fact, Hitchens said that the experience "haunted" him for months.

Sean Hannity, Fox, offered to submit to waterboarding to prove that it is not torture. Hannity has not followed through although given the chance to do so. I'm not going to suggest that Hannity is a coward because he changed his mind. I wouldn't submit myself to waterboarding, but then I already believe that it is torture. Hannity had enough sense to stop short of "torturing" himself and proving to his audience that his mouth is bigger than his lungs are.

Too bad that Muller's experience won't be enough to convince everybody that waterboarding is torture. Many of them will find some way to excuse Muller's inability to endure waterboarding. They will continue to support the use of waterboarding. There are many other supporters of waterboarding who didn't need Muller to demonstrate whether it was torture. These people already believe that waterboarding is torture. They believe that the US had the right to torture the detainees and would approve of the US using torture in the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Steve King - Another Worthless Republican Bigot

Iowans made a damn big mistake when they elected Steve King to the US Congress. Steve King opposes the hate crime bill that makes federal funds and legal services available to local and state governments that otherwise might not be able investigate and prosecute hate crimes and expands the law to protect individuals targeted because of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. I've read every word of the bill and I found that none of the complaints about this bill are true.

The first complaint I heard was from religious conservatives who warned that the bill would make it possible for the government to prosecute church leaders who oppose homosexuality. Nothing in the bill supports this outrageous claim. In fact, the bill contains an explicit provision reiterating that free speech rights are not altered by any provisions in the bill. In order for somebody to be charged with a hate crime, the crime has to result in death or bodily injury.

Last month Republican Virginia Foxx, complained that sponsors of the bill were improperly citing the robbery/murder of Matthew Shepard as a hate crime to promote the passage of the bill. Virginia Foxx said that it was a hoax to call the Matthew Shepard murder a hate crime. She did so in the presence of Matthew Shepard's mother. Matthew Shepard died after being tied to a fence post and beaten. His murderers confessed that they pretended to be gay in order to lure Matthew out of a bar so that they could kill him for being gay.

Steve King is now claiming that the bill will protect pedophiles. If Steve King is not lying through his teeth, he is more stupid than anybody I know. There is nothing in the bill that could in any way be interpreted as protective of pedophiles.

There is nothing that opponents of the hate crime bill will not say and do to prevent it from becoming law. Do they hate the victims of hate crimes more than the criminals? Do the opponents of this bill believe that the victims of certain hate crimes are deserving of punishment? It's impossible for me to believe otherwise.

No person that feels and acts like Steve King and Virginia Foxx deserves to hold any government office. It is not a place for bigotry and hatred. Shame on them and shame on the voters that put them in office.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Big Bang and Creationism

Most of the Christians I know believe the universe was created by God. They do not believe in the prevailing theory of science - The Big Bang. Many of them disagree with The Big Bang Theory without knowing anything about it. They believe that the universe was created by God exactly as stated in the Book of Genesis. I have always believed that the Big Bang and Creationism are not opposing concepts. Why couldn't God be responsible for the Big Bang?

Christians tell me that the Big Bang would have been revealed in Genesis if it had really occurred. How would God have explained the Big Bang to his people thousands of years ago? Would the messages contained in Genesis be better understood if God had provided a scientific description of creation?

The Big Bang says that the Universe was once smaller than a single atom. For an unknown reason it rapidly expanded and began forming stars. Over billions of years some of those stars died and in the process of dying formed all the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The debris from exploded dying stars formed all the other objects in the universe, including Earth, the moon, you and me. We are all stardust. The universe continues to expand at an ever decreasing rate. At some time many, many billions of years from now the expansion of the universe will stop and the last star will burn out.

The Big Bang can't explain the origin of the single particle that became the universe. The Big Bang can't explain why that particle exploded into the universe. Science can tell us what happened and how it happened but it can't explain why. Why is a question that only Religion, not Science, can address.

GOP - Politics As Usual

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the CIA did not inform her of their use of waterboarding when they said they did. The CIA's Panetta says the CIA can't provide confirmation that they actually informed Pelosi but Panetta is sure that the CIA would not have misled Pelosi and Congress. Ex-Senator Bob Graham was told by the CIA that he was briefed four times regarding waterboarding while he was Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Graham, who is famous for recording every daily activity in small spiral notebooks, replied that he was not briefed by the CIA on three of the four dates and was not told about waterboarding in the one of four briefings that did occur. Senator Jay Rockefeller has also reported that the CIA's records regarding his briefings are incorrect. Today Rep. David Obey notified Panetta of yet another error in the CIA's report on briefings. The CIA said admitted that their records could be wrong.

Although the CIA cannot provide proof that Pelosi was informed as they claim and three congressman have provided records proving that CIA claims about their briefings are wrong, the GOP and its supporters have launched a blistering attack against Pelosi.

The GOP has not accused Graham and Rockefeller of lying about the CIA briefings. Why?

Do the GOP and republicans not need evidence before going on the attack? Never. Politicians, in general, never worry about evidence to back up their claims. Even claims disproven cause damage.

It's my opinion that Nancy Pelosi is most disliked by republicans because she is a woman with power. A Bitch is what republicans call her. They have always felt the same way about Hillary Clinton. Another Bitch, in their opinion.

Could the GOP's strategy to recover political power be any more flawed?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ability Beyond Disability Resident Video - Geoffrey's Story

Ability Beyond Disability is a Quality non-profit provider of services to mentally and physically disabled people in NY and CT. They struggle as do all non-profits in their business to provide excellent care with inadequate funding from the government.

Geoffrey's Story

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Torture: It's illegal, Stupid!

Liz Cheney appeared on "Morning Joe" to defend her father's advocacy for enhanced interrogation. She argued that waterboarding as used by the CIA was legal. She argued that Department of Justice lawyers were within the law when they defined the limits within which waterboarding is legal. She argued that the White House is withholding information that proves that waterboarding was effective and consequently justified. The host of the show, Joe Scarborough, accused the White House of cherry-picking government records to release only negative documents regarding enhanced interrogation and withholding documents that would show that these methods were effective.

Torture is illegal. Nothing else matters. Joe Scarborough should apologize on air for defending the use of torture – for justifying a war crime. I think MSNBC should fire Scarborough and any of its personnel who defend the use torture and the violation of our laws and treaties. I'm tired of the suggestion that any rational person would use any means to extract information from a detainee that might save American lives. That's not true. It is immoral. It is inhuman. IT IS ILLEGAL.

If torture is justified by the admissions of the tortured and if admissions under torture are true, then witches possessed by Satan are REAL. The witch hunt in early modern Europe executed about 60,000 women, men and children for being witches possessed by Satan. Torture was the primary method employed to get a confession.

If you believe that torturing detainees is justified by the results, then you must also believe that tens of thousands of witches, in league with Satan, existed in early modern Europe. Since the witch hunt could not have eliminated all witches and surely did not end Satan’s ability to possess people and create witches, then you must also believe that there are thousands of witches in America that are possessed by Satan and using supernatural powers to do his will.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney advised all patriotic Americans to watch their neighbors and report all unusual activity. They should also have advised us to watch for and report all “supernatural” activity. After all, a witch possessed by Satan is surely more dangerous than a terrorist serving Osama bin Laden.

Unprecedented punishment for unprecedented crimes

The talking heads that oppose punishing the Bush administration for its war crimes say that such punishment would be unprecedented and therefore unjust. I disagree. There is no precedent for such punishment only because these crimes are unprecedented.

The more the Bush administration and its supporters argue that these crimes were justified by the circumstances or not crimes at all, the more the need to prosecute the criminals to the fullest extent of the law.

If we do not punish the criminals and silence their supporters, a future administration will again violate our Constitution and our treaties and argue that circumstances and executive privelege justified their actions.

Wanda Sykes on Rush Limbaugh

I wouldn't approve of some of Wanda Sykes' humor targeting Rush Limbaugh except that Rush Limbaugh has never resisted saying anything he wants about anybody. Rush's response to the humor was "No comment." If Rush feels that he shouldn't complain, why should we?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Thoughts on Church, Torture and Capital Punishment

The Pew Forum surveyed four major religious groups and found that people who attend church most often are also most likely to approve of using torture. 62% of White Evangelical Protestants justify torture compared to 40% of those who are unaffiliated with a church. I would expect most Evangelicals to completely disapprove of torture. Since an Evangelical strives to be Christ-like wouldn’t all Evangelicals disapprove of torture?

Based on what I’ve been taught about Christ, Christ would not approve of torturing anybody for any reason. So why do most Evangelicals approve of torture?

There are more than 200 countries in the world. The Death Penalty is abolished in 113 of them and has never been used in another 4 countries. Of the 91 countries that have not abolished the death penalty 43 countries have not used the death penalty in more than 10 years and 25 have not used the death penalty in more than 20 years. In the first 4 months of this year alone the United States has executed 24 people. Texas has executed 14 of them; almost one per week. In the previous 10 years 636 people were executed in the US and 41% of them were executed in Texas. The population of Texas is 8% of the US population. Thus, the rate of execution in Texas is 5 times as high as it is in the rest of the US. The states with the highest execution rates are the Bible Belt states. The states of the Bible Belt were the slave states prior to the Civil War. The predominant religion in the Bible Belt is the Evangelical Protestant.

The United States in one of only 5 countries that executes minors – the other countries are China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Pakistan. The United States and Kyrgyzstan are the only countries that execute the mentally retarded. The United States Supreme Court banned such executions however Texas maintains its right to execute the mentally retarded and in 2001 Governor Perry, vetoed a bill that would have banned such executions.

GW Bush was governor of Texas from 1995 through 2000 during which Texas held 152 executions. Executions in Texas peaked while Bush was governor, increasing 25% in 6 years. Executions in Texas decreased 23% since Bush left the governor’s office. GW Bush claims that each case is reviewed in detail when he considers the final appeal, however, in the case of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded man, Bush met with his legal counsel Alberto Gonzales (the same scoundrel who was Bush’s Attorney General of the US) for only 30 minutes before denying the appeal for clemency. GW Bush is an Evangelical and he approves of torture. In fact GW Bush is the only US President to authorize torture.

The countries that have used the death penalty in 2008 and 2009 are: Sudan, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam, Yemen, United States, Botswana, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The United States, which claims to be the Moral Leader of the world, which consistently attacks other countries for Human Rights Violations, uses the death penalty and torture (until the recent ban by President Obama). We are one of the most violent societies in the world. More crimes are committed in the United States than in any other nation. Only 4 countries have more murders: India, Russia, Columbia and South Africa.

The US is far less than it pretends to be. Insisting that we should not investigate and prosecute our own war crimes ensures that we will commit war crimes in the future.