Jun 142016
 

pulse-orlandoWow, what disturbing news I woke to Sunday morning. We’ve been there in the past, and we’ve been to the Plaza Live where Christina Grimmie was killed, as the Orlando Gay Men’s Chorus performs there. So far, we’re not aware of any friends or acquaintances who were involved, but it is a tight enough community, I’m sure we at least have friends of friends who are.

This will all be kind of a random collection of my thoughts on this, so be understanding if I’m more incoherent than usual.

First, let’s clear up something about the role the shooter’s religion played, and whether this was an Isl?mic terrorist act, or as one “friend” on Facebook called it, Jihad. According to FBI Director, James Comey, the shooter came to their attention a few years ago when some folks at the Court House where he was working security, contacted the FBI after he made claims about being part of Al-Qaeda. They determined he was just making the claims in anger, and as something a threat. Kind of like kids who claim to be in a gang, when they aren’t.

Of course, we all know now about his call to 911 claiming loyalty to the leader of ISIL, and mentioning the Boston Bombers. The Boston Bombers claimed to affiliated with Al-Qaeda. So, why does this matter? Well ISIL and Al-Qaeda are mortal enemies. He basically pledged allegiance to two diametrically opposed groups, Shi’a Hezbollah and Sunni ISIS. I think this shows the guy was either stupid, or too consumed by his rage to consider what he was saying, he just wanted to seem like a big guy on a big mission. I believe this takes all wind out of the sales of those trying to make this some sort of international terrorist event. It was not. Continue reading »

Jun 192010
 
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Say It To My Face

Here’s the first in a brand new series at Deep Something. I’m sick and tired of hearing the Republicans and krazy kristian kooks like the American Family Association and Tony Perkins and many others just make shit up about gay people and the issues faced by LGBT people in this country (and around the world). They do it because they get to try to hide behind press releases, podiums, security and websites. So I’ve decided to call them out. I’m going to find a number and do my best to get through to them or their staff person, and I intend to respectfully and thoughtfully challenge them to say it to my face (or at least over the phone).

First up was Orrin Hatch early this week. The Utah Senator was at a town hall meeting in St. George, UT when he decided he needed to snuggle up to the Tea Baggers. So Hatch said, “Gays and lesbians don’t pay tithing, their religion is politics.”

So I called Senator Hatch’s office. I explained to the staffer the reason for my call, and expressed my disgust at the fact that the Senator would just make up a statement like this without even knowing me. I asked him to explain why the Senator would say such a thing. Naturally, his first response was to claim the Senator didn’t really mean it “that way.” So I asked him to explain in “what way” the Senator meant it…which he couldn’t. So then he admitted he didn’t know why the Senator would say that, so I asked to speak to the Senator to get that understanding. He was, of course, too busy.

I responded that I suspected the Senator wasn’t too busy, but was just not man-enough to say it to my face. I then asked the staff person, given that Senator Hatch could go around just making up stuff about me, could I just go around making up stuff about the Senator…that maybe I should issue a statement saying the Senator and me had been engaged in a many-years running torrid homosexual affair that included drugs and drunken debauchery?

I loved the staffers immediate response (before he started trying to roll back his statement…you could definitely picture him trying to reach through the phone and pull the words back in). He said, “Why would you want to do that, then you’d just be stooping to his level.” Indeed Senator.

The BS on Reconciliation

 Congress, Constitution, Featured, Politics  Comments Off on The BS on Reconciliation
Mar 082010
 

Below is a youtube of a segment from Meet The Press this past Sunday in which E. J. Dionne calls out Sen. Orrin Hatch for the Republican’s continuing bullshit about the use of reconciliation to pass things based on a simple majority vote in the Senate. We need to be discussing policy and health insurance reform (or elimination), but instead, all the Republicans can come up with to try to “win” is to run around like Chicken Little complaining that the sky will fall if some Senate procedure is “out-procedured.”

At one point during the interview Hatch claims the polls show that 58% of Americans don’t like the reform bill, “and only a few like it.” Well, sounds me to as if 42% must like it…that’s not just “a few.” In addition, while there is one poll with that result, others show a majority favoring reform, and when the provisions of the Bill are explained to people, they actually like the provisions in the bill. Funny how that works.
The host puts up portions of a Hatch statement in which he says things like:

  • “would be unprecedented in scope,” – BS meter high-turns out the Republicans used reconciliation to pass the Bush the tax cuts which added $1.7 trillion to our federal deficit. I realize in Congress they don’t have much of a concept of money, but $1.7 trillion to me is pretty unprecedented in scope.
  • “the havoc wrought would threaten our system of checks and balances” – BS meter through the roof-the system of checks and balances is based on three equal branches of government, each have a check on the other two. What procedures Congress decides to use in how it how it acts on legislation has nothing to do with “checks and balances.”
  • “corrode the legislative system” – BS meter headed to low earth orbit-lest we all forget (which the Republicans are counting on) there is NOTHING, nada, zilch, zero, in the Constitution about the Senate requiring a sixty vote majority to pass normal legislation. The Constitution does require certain super-majorities in very special situations, but not for passing every-day legislation. This magical sixty vote thing is purely a creation of the Senate, and for those who argue about majority rule, this “super-majority” requirement would seem to fly in the face of that.
  • “degrade our system of government” –BS meter now on an inter-planetary trajectory-A sitting member of the most corrupt Senate (and government in general) has the temerity to talk about “degrading our system of government?” This is the system has not created a system of state sponsored torture, taken us into a war of aggression against a country that had done nothing to us, has shredded the Constitution with the so called PATRIOT Act. Senator, “have you no shame?”
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

I just can’t fathom how these people can sit there and lie with a totally straight face. I am convinced they could not and would not tell the truth if that actually favored them.

Angels and Demons – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Angels and Demons – A Movie Review
May 172009
 

angelsanddemons_smallposterWhen Robert Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati — the most powerful underground organization in history — he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization’s most despised enemy: the Catholic Church. When Langdon learns that the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and enigmatic Italian scientist. Embarking on a nonstop hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra will follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican’s only hope for survival.

Genres: Thriller, Adaptation, Politics/Religion and Sequel; Running Time: 2 hrs. 18 min.; Release Date: May 15th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Armin Mueller-Stahl

Directed By: Ron Howard

This film delivers well as the book was written in a fashion that reads like a international action thriller touching on the intellectual and spiritual.

The film takes off with the development in sciences that would have significance in proving the big bang theory but a crime is committed and a sample of the proof is stolen from a large lab in Europe. As the story progresses, they realize there may be a tie to a group who claim to be the Illuminati and who are seeking to bring down the Catholic church with the truth of science. This somehow involves deeply delving into the history of the Catholic church, it’s security concerns, hidden treasures and the bits of truth that may be stored away that they don’t want the public to be aware of.

From there, the film just gets thicker and faster. Ewan McGregor does a great job and is a refreshing face in the film along with some other good names that round out the cast, unlike Da Vinci Code which had only one mode to the film. Angels&Demons is much more watchable and theatrical. The performances are much better because the book has many bigger than life characters and events. It followed the book better as in the way it didn’t water down the controversy and graphic details. The Angels&Demons film is definitely worth a watch and will wash out any of the bad taste left from Da Vinci Code.

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Dec 292008
 

It’s 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A vibrant, charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the school’s strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the country, and, indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius is galvanized to begin a crusade to both unearth the truth and expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shred of proof or evidence except her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn, a battle that threatens to tear apart the Church and school with devastating consequences.

Genres: Drama, Adaptation and Politics/Religion; Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.; Release Date: December 12th, 2008 (limited); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Alice Drummond

Directed by: John Patrick Shanley

This is an excellent movie. While I never saw the play, I think the movie maintained the qualities of a play because of John Patrick Shanley. I felt pulled into the movie, not as a passive observer, but more like someone uncomfortably over-hearing conversations to which one should not be listening.

Hoffman pulls off one his top performances here (and think of cannon of work that comes from). He has such conviction as this priest, moments of tenderness and (possibly) righteous anger… and then those little moments, like when he suddenly asks Sister Aloysius (Streep) in the heat of their climactic argument “Have you never done wrong?” that suddenly really makes things interesting. This isn’t just bombast between two heavyweights like Hoffman and Streep, but a master’s class in subtlety, tone, the way a face looks when it tries to look controlled. This is a big performance for Streep as well, and she is perfect in the part. I am not a product of Catholic eduction, but from what I’ve heard, Streep must have some experience with it. Amy Adams has shown herself to be an excellent actress, and pulls off her part perfectly. Viola Davis has a very short part in the film, but it is critical to the story, and she teals her scene practically and goes head-to-head with Streep in one of those revelatory scenes that works on multiple levels.

Doubt will certainly be an Oscar contender, and it deserves to be there. It is an excellent drama, filmed and acted in a way that keeps the audience attention completely centered on the movie.

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A Time For Anger, A Call To Action

 Constitution, Culture, Politics, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on A Time For Anger, A Call To Action
Mar 232007
 

by Bill Moyers

The following is a transcript of a speech given on February 7, 2007 at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

I am grateful to you for this opportunity and to President Prager for the hospitality of this evening, to Diana Akiyama, Director of the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life, whose idea it was to invite me and with whom you can have an accounting after I’ve left. And to the Lilly Endowment for funding the Values and Vocations project to encourage students at Occidental to explore how their beliefs and values shape their choices in life, how to make choices for meaningful work and how to make a contribution to the common good. It’s a recognition of a unique venture: to demonstrate that the life of the mind and the longing of the spirit are mirror images of the human organism. I’m grateful to be here under their auspices.

I have come across the continent to talk to you about two subjects close to my heart. I care about them as a journalist, a citizen and a grandfather who looks at the pictures next to my computer of my five young grandchildren who do not have a vote, a lobbyist in Washington, or the means to contribute to a presidential candidate. If I don’t act in their behalf, who will?

One of my obsessions is democracy, and there is no campus in the country more attuned than Occidental to what it will take to save democracy. Because of your record of activism for social justice, I know we agree that democracy is more than what we were taught in high school civics – more than the two-party system, the checks-and-balances, the debate over whether the Electoral College is a good idea. Those are important matters that warrant our attention, but democracy involves something more fundamental. I want to talk about what democracy bestows on us?the revolutionary idea that democracy is not just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. “I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being” – those are the words of our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.

I’ve been spending time with Woodrow Wilson and others of his era because my colleagues and I are producing a documentary series on the momentous struggles that gripped America a century or so years ago at the birth of modern politics. Woodrow Wilson clearly understood the nature of power. In his now-forgotten political testament called The New Freedom, Wilson described his reformism in plain English no one could fail to understand: “The laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the week.” He wrote: “Don’t deceive yourselves for a moment as to the power of great interests which now dominate our development… There are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States. They are going to own it if they can.” And he warned: “There is no salvation in the pitiful condescensions of industrial masters… prosperity guaranteed by trustees has no prospect of endurance.”

Now Wilson took his stand at the center of power – the presidency itself – and from his stand came progressive income taxation, the federal estate tax, tariff reform, the challenge to great monopolies and trusts, and, most important, a resolute spirit “to deal with the new and subtle tyrannies according to their deserts.”

How we need that spirit today! When Woodrow Wilson spoke of democracy releasing the energies of every human being, he was declaring that we cannot leave our destiny to politicians, elites, and experts; either we take democracy into our own hands, or others will take democracy from us.

We do not have much time. Our political system is melting down, right here where you live.

A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that only 20% of voters last November believe your state will be a better place to live in the year 2025; 51% say it will be worse. Another poll by the New American Foundation – summed up in an article by Steven Hill in the January 28th San Francisco Chronicle – found that for the first time in modern California history, a majority of adults are not registered with either of the two major parties. Furthermore, writes Hill, “There is a widening breach between most of the 39 million people residing in California and the fewer than 9 million who actually vote.” Here we are getting to the heart of the crisis today – the great divide that has opened in American life.

According to that New American Foundation study, frequent voters [in California] tend to be 45 and older, have household incomes of $60,000 or more, are homeowners, and have college degrees. In contrast, the 12 million nonvoters (7 million of whom are eligible to vote but are not registered) tend to be younger than 45, rent instead of own, have not been to College, and have incomes less than $60,000.

In other words, “Considering that California often has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation – in some elections only a little more that 1/3 of eligible voters participate – a small group of frequent voters, who are richer, whiter, and older than their nonvoting neighbors, form the majority that decides which candidates win and which ballot measures pass.” The author of that report (Mark Baldassare) concludes: “Only about 15% of adult people make the decisions and that 15% doesn’t look much life California overall.”

We should not be surprised by the consequences: “Two Californias have emerged. One that votes and one that does not. Both sides inhabit the same state and must share the same resources, but only one side is electing the political leaders who divide up the pie.”

You’ve got a big problem here. But don’t feel alone. Across the country our 18th political system is failing to deal with basic realities. Despite Thomas Jefferson’s counsel that we would need a revolution every 25 years to enable our governance to serve new generations, our structure – practically deified for 225 years – has essentially stayed the same while science and technology have raced ahead. A young writer I know, named Jan Frel, one of the most thoughtful practitioners of the emerging world of Web journalism, wrote me the other day to say: “We’ve gone way past ourselves. I see the unfathomable numbers in the national debt and deficit, and the way that the Federal government was physically unable to respond to Hurricane Katrina. I look at Iraq; where 50% of the question is how to get out, and the other 50% is how did so few people have the power to start the invasion in the first place. If the Republic were functioning, they would have never had that power.”

Yet the inertia of the political process seems virtually unstoppable. Frel reminds me that the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee can shepherd a $2.8 trillion dollar budget through the Senate and then admit: “It’s hard to understand what a trillion is. I don’t know what it is.” Is it fair to expect anyone to understand what a trillion is, my young friend asks, or how to behave with it in any democratic fashion?” He goes on: “But the political system and culture are forcing 535 members of Congress and a President who are often thousands of miles away from their 300 million constituents to do so. It is frightening to watch the American media culture from progressive to hard right being totally sold on the idea of one President for 300 million people, as though the Presidency is still fit to human scale. I’m at a point where the idea of a political savior in the guise of a Presidential candidate or congressional majority sounds downright scary, and at the same time, with very few exceptions, the writers and journalists across the slate are completely sold on it.” Continue reading »

This Week's Stupid Is As Stupid Does

 Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on This Week's Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Dec 022005
 

It appears that, along with Bill O’Reilly, the Right Wingnut organization, American Family Association, is threatening boycotts and complaining because some companies are using "Happy Holidays" in their advertising instead of "Merry Christmas." I mean why should we acknowledge Hanukkah, after all Judaism isn’t a real religion. (Said rhetorically).

Get a grip. Here’s what I don’t understand. I could care less about whether or not someone says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. I don’t go to the store to get grated. I do appreciate any greeting at all, but don’t care what it is so long as it is polite.

If these goof-balls really gave a shit about observing the holiday, the real issue would be forcing these stores to actually close in observance of the holiday so their employees can enjoy one day off each year. This has long been an issue with me. I mean really, is the U.S. economy in such dire straits that retail establishments can’t take two days out of 365 to be closed? (Thanksgiving Day and Christmas).

So, maybe I’m a bit of a wingnut too, but if this group wants me to support their boycott, make the issue something is meaningful.

Thanks And Giving

 General, Kings Mountain, Religion, Society  Comments Off on Thanks And Giving
Nov 272005
 

Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home. -Wilbur D. Nesbit

I suppose it is almost obligatory to write something about Thanksgiving around this time. Like many of you, I traveled over the holiday. I drove up to Kings Mountain, NC Tuesday to spend the holiday with my mother and sisters. We returned to Tampa Friday in an effort to miss traffic.

This is a time of reflecting and “giving thanks” for our blessings and one of the things I’m most thankful for is that my immediate family remains intact, and that I still have a home and hometown to which I can return. The parents’ of an old high school friend of mine died some years ago. He now lives in Asheville, NC and his sister in Charlotte. He made a comment a few years ago about how sad he was that for the first time, he really had no reason to go to Kings Mountain for the holidays. Because of the tight relationship I have with my family, and the love for the small town in which I grew up, I thought that was very poignant, and that is not a feeling I want to experience any time soon. So I’m thankful for home and family.

Thursday night, Lay and I went out riding around, and I pointed out so many of the local landmarks that were part of my growing up years. Being that it’s a small town, I could tell him who (at least) used to live in nearly every house in town. Not coming from a small town, he doesn’t have the same frame of reference to understand that, for all the drawbacks of growing up in small town, there are many benefits to knowing nearly everyone in town.

With a twelve-hour drive home, I had ample time to reflect on Thanksgiving and what this time of year means. I personally have had an OK year. There are things in my life that I wish were different, but on the whole, I am very blessed. So it seems almost curmudgeonly to think about what a bad year it’s been from a societal perspective.

The first thing that leaps to mind is the storms of the Gulf Coast and destruction they wrought. Then there is my disagreement with the federal government position on so many social issues from Gay rights to funding for social programs…and there is the on-going conflict in Iraq.

But for all of that, most of us in America have much for which to be thankful, especially if you consider our situations as compared to so many around the world and here too.

So I think the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving is the easy part. It’s the “giving” part that is often a little more difficult.

Continue reading »

Alito's America A Scary Place

 Politics, Right Wingnuts, The Courts  Comments Off on Alito's America A Scary Place
Oct 312005
 

I might as well get a post about Bush’s Supreme Court Nominee out of the way. In bowing to the religious fanatics on the right, he’s pretty much sealed the fate of our Constitutional rights to be left alone by the government.

The right wing demanded the withdrawal of Harriet Miers so she could be replaced with a judge who met their rigid, ideological litmus test. This morning, the conservatives got what they wanted. President Bush will nominate Third Circuite Appeal Court Judge Samuel Alito as the replacement for swing-voter Sandra Day O’Connor. (In contrast, John Roberts replaced the very conservative William Rehnquist.) On NBC’s Today Show, law professor Jonathan Turley said there "will be no one to the right of Sam Alito" on the Supreme Court. Alito’s record supports Turley’s view. His history of right-wing judicial activism will be a key issue during his hearings.

ALITO WOULD OVERTURN ROE V. WADE: In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view and also voted to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1991]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW RACE-BASED DISCRIMINATION: Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW DISABILITY-BASED DISCRIMINATION: In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” Summary judgment allows a case to be dismissed before it goes to trial. [Nathanson v.Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]

ALITO WOULD STRIKE DOWN THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) "guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one." The 2003 Supreme Court ruling upholding FMLA [Nevada v. Hibbs, 2003] essentially reversed a 2000 decision by Alito which found that Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. [Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, 2000]

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito argued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip-searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

ALITO HOSTILE TOWARD IMMIGRANTS: In two cases involving the deportation of immigrants, the majority twice noted Alito’s disregard of settled law. In Dia v. Ashcroft, the majority opinion states that Alito’s dissent “guts the statutory standard” and “ignores our precedent.” In Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, the majority stated Alito’s opinion contradicted “well-recognized rules of statutory construction.” [Dia v. Ashcroft, 2003; Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, 2004]

You Had To See This One Coming (Pun Intended)

 Religion, Right Wingnuts, Weather  Comments Off on You Had To See This One Coming (Pun Intended)
Oct 102005
 

Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Pat Robertson is now suggesting that the recent rash of natural disasters could be a signal of end times. Its always amazed me that the return of Christ to begin his thousand year reign of love and heavan on earth would be heralded by the death and destruction of millions of innocent individuals. Except of course all those heathen sinners in the French Quarter…oops, that was the only place not wiped out and flooded.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Prominent US preacher Pat Robertson said that recent natural disasters around the world point to the end of the world and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

"These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity," Robertson told CNN, remarking on the coincidence of a major earthquake that killed thousands in Asia Saturday and recent killer hurricanes slamming the United States.

Those disasters come less than a year after a massive tsunami levels huge portions of South Asia, killing more than 31,000 people and leaving some a million left homeless.

Devout Christians believe that the "last days" will be marked by political and geological upheaval, and Roberts said recent events show that those days might have arrived.

Citing scripture from the Bible, the conservative Christian broadcaster said the latter days would be marked by "the birth pangs of a new order, and for anybody who knows what it’s like to have a wife going in labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit."

"What was called the Blessed Hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know would change into something that would be wonderful that we’d call the millennium," Robertson said.

"And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child."

Asked if the world was reaching this moment, Robertson said: "It’s possible. I don’t have any special revelation to say it is but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be."

Hurricane Katrina has left more than 1,200 people dead in the United States, while nearly 20,000 people have died in the South Asian earthquake disaster this weekend.

As I noted….A God that needs to announce his return via death and destruction does not deserve our worship.

Once Again A Call To Methodist Bishops to Denouce Torture

 Politics, Religion, Society, War  Comments Off on Once Again A Call To Methodist Bishops to Denouce Torture
Sep 282005
 

I have, several times in the past, called on the U.S. Bishops of the United Methodist Church, to write George Bush and denounce the practice of government sponsored torture. To the best of my knowledge, only five have done so. In light of the recent revelations, I am, again, calling on these Christian leaders to denounce toture. I will be much aggressive this time in that I plan to make a phone call to each.

I have previously posted the contact information for the fifty U.S. Bishops in PDF and Excel format. I ask you to join me in calling on them to write the White House, and take a stand against torture.

Dear Bishop:

Most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture “consistent with military necessity.”

Are we, as Methodist charged by our founding principles to be socially responsible, going to continue to close our eyes – even as this behavior continues to be exposed?

We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, “or we are lost and undone.” Can the leaders of Methodism consult their own consciences with respect to what Justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation?

On September 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of “routine” torture that US servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/24/politics/24abuse.html). This week’s Time also has an article on the use of torture by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army Captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as “another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact.” Judge for yourselves; the report can be found at (http://hrw.org/reports/2005/us0905/). Grim but required reading.

See if you can guess the author of the following:

“In this land that has inherited through our forebears the noblest understandings of the rule of law, our government has deliberately chosen the way of barbarism…

There is a price to be paid for the right to be called a civilized nation. That price can be paid in only one currency – the currency of human rights…When this currency is devalued a nation chooses the company of the world’s dictatorships and banana republics. I indict this government for the crime of taking us into that shady fellowship.

The rule of law says that cruel and inhuman punishment is beneath the dignity of a civilized state. But to prisoners we say, ‘We will hold you where no one can hear your screams.’ When I used the word ‘barbarism,’ this is what I meant. The entire policy stands condemned by the methods used to pursue it.

We send a message to the jailers, interrogators, and those who make such practices possible and permissible: ‘Power is a fleeting thing. One day your souls will be required of you.”

— Bishop Peter Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Johannesburg, June 1981

The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so.

You forfeit your moral authority when you keep your heads down and eyes averted to this behavior. The question is this: Are we up to the challenge of confronting the evil of torture, or shall we prove Patrick Henry right? Is our country about to be “lost and undone?”

I once again call on each of you to decry the government sponsored torture that is clearly taking place. We, as Christians and Methodists can do no less. It is, as a leader of the Church, your obligation to speak up loudly and denounce these activities. As Bishop Story noted, one day too, our souls will be required of us.

Yours in Peace,
John Masters

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