Sunday, November 28, 2010

Humor Break - Simple Explanation of "Quantitative Easing"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wikileaks and the Christoids

Paul the apostle wrote, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).

59 years have failed to get me used to stupidity - clear evidence, I guess, that I'm pretty stupid myself. So I was surprised at church a couple of weeks ago when I praised the good service of Julian Assange and Wikileaks in exposing the vile deeds that our rulers have been doing and concealing, and this Bible teacher fell uncomfortably silent.

Maybe his problem is some kind of dyslexia, so that he reads, "Do not expose the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather have fellowship with them" - and Wikileaks is certainly violating that commandment!

It shouldn't surprise me, since Jesus said that the whores and tax gatherers would get into the kingdom of God before the Bible teachers of his own day, but I keep right on being surprised. People like Julian Assange that do not profess to know God are obeying the apostle Paul's instruction in Ephesians 5:11, while people who teach these words in church turn them on their heads and fling them to the ground.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Gratitude is good, and I've come up short in it all my life. But as the Thanksgiving holiday comes up, I'm reminded of how people are so often thankful in the wrong way for the wrong things, thereby profaning the entire concept of thankfulness.

For instance in Luke 18:9-14, the Pharisee prays with himself, "I thank you, God, that I am not like other men!" The guy would be way better off if he were not so thankful.

And from the massacre at Mystic in 1637 on up through Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American Christians have been giving thanks for their success in the mass murder of civilian populations, forgetting that such successes do bad things to the hearts of those who succeed at them.

If we're actually Christians, let's learn to be thankful for the things that God does - for when we deny ourselves in order to do justice and love mercy, for when we decrease so that Jesus may increase. When the world rejoices, we should often mourn, and when the world gives thanks we should generally be ashamed. If we're in harmony with the Spirit of God, won't we be out of step with the world (John 16:20)? Are we giving thanks to God for what he gives, or to ourselves and our own objects of worship for our success in getting over?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Veterans Day blather

We had lots of sentimental blather, as always, about how we're supposed to be thankful to veterans for our freedoms. Here are just a few problems:

- If the people talking like this were real patriots, they would pay some attention to the founding fathers of our country. Those guys warned with one voice that standing armies destroy our freedom, not that they protect it. The American armed forces, if the founders are to be believed, are a dire menace to our freedom, not its defenders. And the founders are definitely to be believed. We've reached the point where the generals openly dispute policy with the civilian government, which caves. I won't say that Washington, Madison, Jefferson, and Adams would have been shocked, because they foresaw this and would only be disappointed, not astonished. But the war lovers and militarists ought to have the decency to confess themselves to be the enemies of the American republic that they are, instead of wrapping themselves in the flag as they go about promoting its destruction.
- I understand why American "patriots" agree with Chairman Mao that political power comes out of the barrel of a gun, and since they equate American power with freedom, they therefore suppose that freedom comes from the barrel of a gun. But somehow it doesn't work out that way. Christians at least ought to agree with Paul that liberty is where the Spirit of the Lord is , not where a soldier with a gun is.
- We don't protect our own freedom by going thousands of miles away to trash other people's homes and to rob them of their lives and freedom, and to impose corrupt puppet dictatorships on them. Since what goes around comes around, sending American troops everywhere to terrorize and dominate people can only result in the loss our own freedom, since freedom is for those who grant freedom to others, not for those that enslave others.
- Finally, the truth is that getting our soldiers killed all over the world in order to dominate others is a pagan ritual of human sacrifice. It's pretty obvious that all the sentimental blather about what heroes they are is to over-compensate for the truth - the American people cynically sacrifice the lives of their professional military in wars that they don't even want to think about themselves, never mind fight in, so that they can enjoy their soft lives on the backs of the foreigners so beaten into submission. It's easy to drown such self-knowledge in an empty emotional bath. If people really want to do right by these men and women, how about bringing them back home and giving them real and honorable work to do, instead of sending them abroad to be killers, vandals, and rapists in places like Okinawa that they have no business to be in?

Pagans are always burning their children in the fire to their gods and feeling holy about it, thus hiding themselves from their own blood-guilt. But Christians ought to abstain from this lust of the world. Our call is to walk in the truth, which has nothing to do with the sentimental worship of worldly arms and the reliance on the shed blood of men to give us life and freedom. God provided that through the death of Jesus on a cross and his resurrection, and for a Christian, that's enough. Death which does not involve resurrection is of Satan the lord of the flies, not of God, who is the God of the living, not of the dead.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Even the stones cry out

The National Post is a Canadian paper that supports Stephen Harper's Conservative government:

Lots of American Christians are unable to digest a word like this. If they did not reject the assessment of John the apostle, that "the whole world lies in the wicked one," their digestive systems would be stronger. The word of God is good medicine.

How badly things go for us, whoever we are, when we say, "Thank you God that I am not like other men!" (Luke 18:9-14). It is what opens the door to what Paul calls "strong delusion." From the National Post:

In the 1930s, that great legal innovator Joseph Stalin introduced the show trial. The accused would stand up in court and willingly, even eagerly, confess to the most fantastical crimes. At the first great show trial, in 1936, Grigori Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and other former senior Communist party members admitted to being members of a terrorist organization. They said they had plotted to kill Stalin and other Soviet leaders. In the following years, as Stalin's purges picked up steam, show trials featured increasingly incredible stories, usually involving the accused admitting to being agents of Western imperialism.

What made men confess to things that were unlikely, sometimes impossible and usually unsupported by other evidence? Torture. Sleep deprivation, beatings, and threats against their wives and children. To stop the pain, you had to confess to whatever it was that the interrogators wanted to hear. And then you had to get up in court and willingly confess to it all over again.

The trial of Omar Khadr has been called a travesty of justice, a violation of the rule of law, a kangaroo court and lots of other things beside. But what it really was, was a show trial.

On the main charge, "murder in violation of the laws of war" (a crime that doesn't appear to even exist in international law, given that combatants who kill other soldiers in combat are not violating the laws of war), the chief evidence against the then-15-year-old child soldier was his own confession. And that confession, made years ago and long since recanted, was obtained under conditions that any normal human being would describe as torture.

Omar Khadr was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. He was the only survivor after a firefight and an air strike on an al-Qaeda position. He had been wounded in his shoulder and in both eyes, shot twice in the back and was near death. It was alleged that, just before he was shot, he had thrown a grenade at attacking American troops, killing one of them. As already noted, he was 15 years old.

He then spent several months in the hellhole that was Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, where he claims -- credibly, given all that we know about what went on at Bagram -- that he was subjected to sleep deprivation, the chaining of his hands above his head for hours, that he was hooded and threatened by dogs, and sometimes forced to urinate on himself because he was not unshackled to go to the bathroom.

His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death. Ponder that for a moment.

He was interviewed about 25 times by this interrogator, Joshua Claus. Claus was also the interrogator for an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was chained to the ceiling and beaten to death in Bagram in 2002; Claus pled guilty to his involvement in the affair and received a five month sentence. In a lovely Orwellian touch, the U.S. government insisted that reporters covering Khadr's trial not name Claus, but instead refer to him as "Interrogator 1."

In Bagram, Khadr confessed that he had thrown the grenade that killed an American soldier. No one saw him do this, so his confession is really the only evidence of the act. Last summer, U.S. military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled that the confession, despite the obviously coercive circumstances under which it was made, had been freely given, and could be used against Khadr in court.

This week, Omar Khadr was offered the following choice: plead guilty, or face two different routes to life in prison. He could go to trial, and thanks to a confession that would be laughed out of any real court of law, he'd probably be convicted. But even if the court somehow found him not guilty, the U.S. reserved the right to detain him indefinitely as an enemy combatant. The only sure way to get out of jail early was to tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear.

On Monday, Khadr was even forced to cop to other crimes, including the killing of two Afghan soldiers, something he wasn't even charged with, and for which the prosecution appears to have had no evidence. And, in a nice touch that Stalin would have appreciated, Khadr appears to have also been forced to sign away his right to sue his jailors for the various forms of deprivation and abuse that he was subject to. In court on Monday, Col. Patrick Parrish repeatedly asked Khadr to confirm that he was agreeing to these terms willingly, that he really, truly, sincerely wanted to plead guilty all of his own accord. Khadr said yes. They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it.

And so the Bush administration project of ridding the world of terrorism by means of torture comes full circle. The U.S. military and CIA, ordered to use force to extract information from detainees, something that violated not just U.S. military tradition but U.S. military law, had to come up with new interrogation techniques, and quickly. They turned to history, including copying communist coercion-based interrogation models, such as those that captured American troops had been subjected to during the Korean War.

The original communist torture techniques, which for a time inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions: That was the whole point. They were designed to force people to say what interrogators wanted to hear -- yes, I am a capitalist stooge, yes I am a Trostkyite, yes I am a terrorist.

And now Guantanamo's very first military tribunal has its first guilty verdict, thanks to those methods of coercion first perfected for the Soviet Bloc show trial. My God, what have we done? Somewhere in hell, Joseph Stalin is smiling.

- Tony Keller, a former editor of the Financial Post Magazine, is a visiting fellow at the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hard news, bad news

I had an interesting conversation on an autism forum a week ago, and I came upon a great fundamental truth:

To the degree that we refuse hard news, we become bad news

It's all over the Bible, of course. People murdered the prophets, becoming bad news to themselves and their whole nation, because they hated the hard news, true as it was, that the prophets brought.

Jesus had some hard news for his hearers too. "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you" - and those who wouldn't hear it were gone, hurting themselves and everyone around them. Peter didn't want to hear it when Jesus told them that they would grab him, flog him, spit on him, and nail him on a cross. So Jesus had to address him as Satan - adversary - and when Jesus talks to you like that, you'd best believe you're being bad news.

Now all this is obvious everywhere in the world. When this came up in the autism forum, it was in the context of people being in denial about their kids being autistic, so that they don't get the help they need. Lots of people die of cancer because they blow off hard news that could have saved their lives.

Blow off hard news, be bad news: it's a universal principle. I'll leave other examples as an exercise for the reader. I've been seeing lots of ways I can be bad news a little less, by making peace with hard news when it's the truth.