Monday, May 31, 2004

Happy Memorial Day

We owe much to our fighting men and women throughout history. They have made great sacrifices for us that leave America as it is today - free. Even today, we have soldiers in the field doing their duty to our nation, and doing it valiantly. Whether we agree with the particular mission or not, whether we believe that all military missions are not created equal, bears no qualification upon our brave fellow citizens carrying these missions out.

God bless them, and give them this day.
The Problem With Catholic Church Interference With Politics

The Catholic Church needs to back off from free democracy. By not outright condemning the actions of some bishops in refusing communion to American politicians, for political positions, the Catholic Church creates a wedge it should not create between those who share loyalties to both representative democracy and to the church.

First, John Kerry is a politician. He is a representative of the people. Whether or not his personal belief is aligned with the church position, this doesn't mean that he should let his personal belief override or control his duty as a democratic representative. It's not John Kerry's job or duty to command his constituents on what their position ought to be on a matter. His role is to gauge the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs of his constituents and serve and honor them.

This may go against the hierarchical command structure of the Catholic Church, but so be it. The Pope claims he is the most special representative of God and in a privileged position to interpret God's will and Word and dictate that to those less worthy and privileged to do so. That's fine (I guess). But free democratic peoples don't work that way, in this kind of organizational top-down manner, and the Catholic Church ought to respect and honor that.

Further, the Catholic Church really needs to be more consistent, and the Pope needs to take a strong stand to save his credibility amongst those of us who are more than worthy to evaluate these kinds of things. If the issue is life, why focus solely on abortion, and not the death penalty? I'm told the Pope has left open that some capital punishment may be necessary. This position is absurd and ridiculous. There is never any compelling reason to kill anyone. There is always another option. The lesson of Jesus' execution ought to be clear - we are fallible, and our communities and mobs are fallible, and therefore we ought not to pass judgement on who should live and who should die.

Free principles have a related rule and lesson - habeas corpus. This great principle is the bedrock of our system of justice, and allows for human fallibility, among other things. It does not mean habeas corpse. If new evidence were to emerge in a capital case, or another stepped forward to claim responsibility for the deed in question, and you already killed the man who had been convicted earlier, how can this man's family claim him? Move to have his case reviewed and exonerated? You can't, at least not for the benefit and freedom of this man, because you already killed him, and it's willful negligence to assert that no innocent party has not been executed by the free American republic, or that there is any excuse or justification for it. This also begs the question of responsibility, since how will God pass judgment on this murder - against the mob, or community, or against each one of the individuals who went along?

Still, I digress. The bottom line is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but respect the views of others, especially women, who may feel differently, and who have differing ultimate responsibilities on the matter. Should I not get communion (aside from my bashing of the Pope, which ought to at least merit the possiblity of excommunication)? Of course not. And this scenario of me being personally opposed, but respecting the views of others, is much further away then the case of a politician personally opposing abortion, but not imposing that belief on the free citizens he is in the service of and accountable to.

The Catholic Church ought only be concerned with the souls of its constituents, and not what kind of missionary fervor they choose to share this state with their fellows. It is the church's job to make the best case for its principled positions, and win over the hearts, minds, and souls of its constituents. If it does so well enough, then John Kerry will himself reject the act of abortion, and the church may be happy for his soul and salvation. But that is where the church stops, and politics begins, and John Kerry is under no obligation to dictate to others his beliefs or to refuse political participation with those he who most agrees with (overall), either by not participating in politics at all or being forced to vote Republican over a single issue when he disagrees with almost everything else.

If any of you have access, forward this to the Pope. I formally request an audience with him to make an appeal for reason and compassion, not to mention good sense. The church invites great danger with this issue, and it should act at the earliest possible moment to clarify its position on communion.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

I Haven't Completely Disappeared

I'm not retired. Just relaxing, in this medium, and going full tilt in another to complete a new software product. Pressure's on, and I have to respond.

Of course, I'm maintaining my connections, staying in tune with the news and memes, checking in occasionally at my regular haunts, and researching and studying every chance I get, honing the message, exploring new avenues of rhetoric and exposition.

Many say the blogosphere is a waste, just a bunch of self-absorption, but if you hit some of the right spots, maybe even this one, you get a little more than that. The expanded Freedom Century site is upcoming, and when it does we'll be expanding this message even further - into literary areas, and consciousness research.

Also, I'm reviewing all available literature right now in regards to propaganda, social influence, persuasion, (some) rhetoric, and memetics.


To put up a defenitive guide - for rhetorical and argumentative self-defense, and for expanding these elemental skills into a more common understanding around the blogosphere.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Celebrating Freedom - Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall

Much of our history is devastatingly shameful and ignorant, if not hateful, as regards the treatment of our brothers and sisters of African heritage (let alone other ethnicities and minorities). At one time, Frederick Douglass was motivated to state:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?

I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.

To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Indeed, Americans proudly and happily celebrated the 4th of July in those days, but it wasn't about the Declaration of Independence or universal enfranchisement, but a selfish independence borne of ignorance and malice.

To our credit, we've kept our eyes on the prize, and especially those black Americans denied the American Dream kept their eyes on the prize, so that today we may celebrate the anniversary of a great court ruling declaring that all Americans are equal members of our popular sovereignty and community. That separate is not equal. This only happened through perseverance and struggle, however, and in acknowledgement that our mission as a free nation is evolving, and not set in stone at our founding.

So, on this day, I defer to the great Thurgood Marshall, who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, in his own words speaking on America's Bicentennial, both as a counterpoint to our common illusions and myths of our history, and to Frederick Douglass' criticism and dissent a century and a half earlier:

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 could not have envisioned these changes. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendent of an African slave. We the People no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the Framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of "liberty," "justice," and "equality," and who strived to better them.

And so we must be careful, when focusing on the events which took place in Philadelphia two centuries ago, that we not overlook the momentous events which followed, and thereby lose our proper sense of perspective. Otherwise, the odds are that for many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives. If we seek, instead, a sensitive understanding of the Constitution's inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history, the celebration of the "Miracle at Philadelphia" will, in my view, be a far more meaningful and humbling experience. We will see that the true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not.

Thus, in this bicentennial year, we may not all participate in the festivities with flagwaving fervor. Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights.

God Bless and may all enjoy the fruits of freedom and equality before the law.

Word To The Wise - Sex, Torture & Videotape

We shouldn't be distracted so much by the revelations of sex, torture and videotape in Iraq that we ignore or forget that prisoners were beaten and killed there. We also shouldn't be distracted enough to ignore or forget that these allegations of beatings, torture, and murder have arisen elsewhere - in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

Though we shouldn't be distracted, we also ought not be too myopic when we do focus our view on the events in Iraq. If, as Seymour Hersh reports in the New Yorker, this kind of interrogation has been designed and approved for use against prisoners of the Islamic faith in Guantanamo and Afghanistan, by our own civilian leadership and military command, then we have to question whether poorly trained reservists with little knowledge of Arab or Islamic culture would independently come up with similarly "effective" tactics in Iraq.

As we begin to get answers for these questions, we have to wake up to a sobering reality. These are war crimes, and the perpetrators ought to be prosecuted. Since the buck starts at the top, start with Rumsfeld, and work your way down. Sooner or later, someone will rat out someone above them, whether Rumsfeld or someone below him, down to the actual perpetrators of the acts in question, in order to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

We must not bury our heads or the truth in the sands of Iraq. If there were systematic abuses of human rights and dignity, acts of torture and war crimes, then the system needs to be held to account along with the human beings who furthered it.

Also, if it's not a crime for American personnel, military or civilian, to use torture and sexual humiliation against prisoners in Guantamano, there is hardly cause to charge American personnel in Iraq for the same offenses, if under orders. Especially in the vacuum of clear leadership or language by our leadership, as well as training, such a double standard serves to undermine the dignity, at least what's left, of our own men and women in uniform who stand accused, not to mention undermines the cause of justice, which must be equally applied or not at all.

We don't need fall guys (or gals) - we need stand up individuals. Our name and honor are at stake.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

World Press Freedom Day - Come And Gone

The Carroll County Star-Tribune reminds us of the importance of World Press Freedom Day in an inspiring editorial.
Today is World Press Freedom Day, a time to honor those nations that embrace one of democracys most essential rights.

Few in the United States are familiar with this important commemoration, which marks the May 3 anniversary of the 1991 signing of the Windhoek Declaration in Africa that calls for free, independent and pluralist media in every country.

Perhaps that is because we Americans take our First Amendment rights as a given. But sadly, these basic freedoms do not exist throughout much of the world, where media repression is the norm. Around the globe, in places like Cuba and China and parts of the Middle East, journalists routinely face censorship, imprisonment and assault. Many have given their lives - 36 in 2003, at least 17 more this year - in pursuit of truth. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, another 136 were jailed in each of the past two years as a direct result of their work.


And, it can serve as a reminder for all Americans to vigorously oppose those including some in our own government whose policies and actions threaten our status as the most open nation in history.

Recently, that climate of openness has been threatened as national security concerns have been used as a pretense to close the door on the people's right to know.

Certainly, there is justification for classifying information that could clearly endanger our fellow citizens.

But increasingly, champions of open government - Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals - are warning that national security is being used by government officials and clever corporations as a pretense to withhold information that might prove embarrassing or reveal illegalities.

As literally tens of millions of previously public documents have been stamped secret, it has become more difficult for the press to perform its historic watchdog role. And, average citizens cannot acquire information essential for their own well-being. In the past, that information has been used to expose hazardous waste dumps, rogue police officers, dangerous chemical accidents, aviation safety records, or even whether your next door neighbor has been injured in a train or plane crash.


Freedom of information is healthy for society. It encourages public debate, reveals wrongdoing and holds government officials accountable. It has made us the great nation we are.

But when public information slips from sunlight into darkness, ignorance and tyranny quickly follow. And the United States ceases to be the model to which repressive nations should aspire.

Hear, hear.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Hearts And Minds Lost?

In regards to our use of torture, shame on us. And I mean US. At least we Americans. Just because images finally come out that cannot be denied doesn't mean that we've seen everything. There have been hints of this kind of thing for months with rumours and strange deaths happening from Guantamano to Afghanistan, as well as just mass imprisonment with little preparation of Iraqis.

I had a haunting and urgent sense before this war started in Iraq that it would bring us great shame. I had hoped that enough of us would spread the word, and gather in the streets, in order to give a reality check to our leaders and representatives before we'd passed the point of no return. To do so, in my mind, would bring "shame to our nation". But I was referring more to our shoddy and horrible case for the war, and the presence of plagiarized, forged, and greatly exaggerated evidence to support it.

Never did I think we would be shamed before the whole world not only for our decadent and self-righteous pretensions but for torture, in who knows how many cases murderously ending in death.

We cannot allow those who have dodged and evaded accountability and responsibility all this time, for the events surrounding this mission in Iraq, when events turn negative, while hoping to bask in the accolades when things seemingly go well, or positive, to pull their latest maneouver and pin this on "6 morons who lost the war".

Though they truly may be described as morons, from the view of the Pentagon, for taking pictures, and somehow letting them be released when they are so incriminating, both to themselves, to the Pentagon, and to us as a nation, we shouldn't lose sight that if they weren't such morons we wouldn't know with certainty and be able to put a stop to institutional torture and murder in our name.

Have we tortured and murdered innocent family men, after having torn them away from their families, these families fearing day and night of the well-being of their loved one? Thank God for these pictures, because this cannot go on in our name, or as a condition of our military endeavors throughout the world. And sooner or later the survivors of these prisons would have been released, and told their stories to their families, friends, and neighbors, where it would spread like wildfire amongst those whom we intend to "win hearts and minds", all the while at home a majority continue to wonder why they resent and hate us.

People at the top need to take ownership. Take responsibility. There better damn well be some resignations among the civilian leadership. President Bush, it's time to break out the big stick. This mission in Iraq has indeed brought "great shame to our nation". Drop the hammer on those responsible, and assure the world we take this to be serious, serious business.


Let us also not forget that though a life is priceless, we inevitably will be paying a heavy price to reimburse the victims of torture and murder in Iraq by our hands.