Fallen Nation

Fallen Nation
Yezidee refugee family on Lesbos
An organization called Public Policy Polling (PPP) did a survey, and found that 30% of Republicans said they would support bombing a country called Agrabah. This is a fake country name, although it obviously sounds like a country in the middle-east. This is shocking, but:
From an article in Salon, Ben Norton wrote:
You’re missing the point. 30% of Republicans said they’d bomb Agrabah — but so did 19% of Democrats.
Yes, 36 percent of surveyed Democrats said they opposed it, but 19 is still a huge number — and not that far off from the Republican figure of 30 percent. Moreover, when you adjust for the 45 percent of Democrats who did not provide a yes or no answer, it means 35 percent of Democrats who gave a specific answer to PPP supported bombing a fictitious Arabic-sounding country.
It’s not about party, it’s about hunger for war: 19 percent of Democrats also said they’d bomb fake country from “Aladdin”.
[End quote]
The sad fact we get from this poll is that 49% of Americans, when asked if they would support a bombing campaign in this country, said yes, without knowing anything about the country. As Mr. Norton said, there is a hunger for war in the USA.

This was upsetting to me, and surprising. I’ve always held the belief that, yes, our government may indeed be basically evil, wickedly stirring up trouble by means of the military in conjunction with our secret agencies, and yes, our military is good at only one thing, which is wanton, indiscriminate destruction, but, dang it, most Americans are good, peace-loving souls.
Then along came the Republican debates, and Donald Trump, which I have avoided like the plague, but still found out enough second-hand to be highly disturbing. Trump doesn’t bother me. He’s a joke, and can not be elected. But what worries me is the level of support Trump has gotten from so many people, and the enthusiasm of his supporters, willing to fight for him, even. (The attacks on those who have been hecklers at his events). Apparently, a lot of people actually AGREE with Trumps outrageous attitudes toward immigrants, and Muslims, and his belligerent, jingoistic, cavalier attitude about war, American empire building, and international relations.
I was told that the Republicans actually got into a bit of a competition about “toughness, and resoluteness, in bombing ISIS. [The following from Democracy Now! site:
During Tuesday’s debate, radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Dr. Ben Carson if he was ruthless enough to wage war. “Could you order airstrikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands?”
[Carson’s answer was affirmative] HUGH HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian. It’s like—
DR. BEN CARSON: You got it. You got it.
HUGH HEWITT: That is what war—can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the war against the Nazis?
DR. BEN CARSON: “Ruthless” is not necessarily the word I would use, but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are and understanding that the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done.
[End quote] And I understand that this was well received by the audience. I’m shocked that everyone didn’t get up and walk out, at that point, but no, and Trump basically agreed with this attitude.

So, unfortunately, I’m beginning to get it. So, in the USA, not only is the government and the military evil, guided by evil international corporations (which are owned by the elite 1%, primarily), but a sizable proportion of this population is in agreement with all of this wickedness and contravention of international law, and so, therefore, these citizens are EVIL AS WELL!
On NPR, the other day, there was an interview of David Ignatius. (Looked it up online, but no name was given for the interviewer) The Interviewer was bemoaning the fact that President Obama doesn’t see the middle-east or the ISIS threat in the same way that Republicans do. (As if this were a problem!) He wants to go slow, and not put too many “boots-on-the-ground”. So he asked David, who had authored an article on this subject, “What do you think it would take, to get Obama to see this as an important enough battle, to invest the kind of military force necessary to get the job done?” (My paraphrase).
His answer was that some major attack here in the States, that would, perhaps, interfere in the normal functioning of the country, this would suffice. But I’m astonished that this conversation is even taking place at all, and on NPR! It’s as if it is common knowledge that our country SHOULD have both “boots on the ground, thousands of troops, and add to that all possible bombing, in EVERY PLACE where there is some kind of threat such as ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or unruly, uncooperative regime.
The interviewer seemed to have this understanding, as if it were something we all agree on, that this is just normal, good governance. Does no-one know that invading another country is against international law? We’ve gotten so used to the idea of invading other countries, in this time of eternal warfare, that we have forgotten a basic premise! Warfare is illegal, and morally repugnant. (Of course, provisions are made for self-defense of the homeland, but this gets abused to no end). Here is a quote from Global Research news:
WE BANNED ALL WAR IN 1928
In 1928, the United States Senate, that same institution that on a good day can now get three percent of its members to vote against funding war escalations or continuations, voted 85 to 1 to bind the United States to a treaty by which it is still bound and in which we “condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in [our] relations with” other nations. This is the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It condemns and renounces all war.
In addition, in 1945, the United States became a party to the United Nations Charter, which also remains in force today as part of the “supreme law of the land.” The United States had been the driving force behind the U.N. Charter’s creation. It includes these lines:
“All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
”All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
(End quote). If this surprises you, it just goes to show how far we have fallen, as a people. Hey, imagine what the American reaction would be to any other nation putting “boots on the ground” here on OUR SOIL? But we’ve grown to believe it’s some kind of right for the USA, even an obligation, to intervene in other countries affairs, anywhere in the world, by means of force.
The Syrian refugee crisis brought out some ugly aspects of the xenophobic among us. I thought it was a very small slice of the American people who would fear and resent these poor refugees, victims of our own actions in three or four countries in the middle-east. But no, I understand that a significant percentage of Americans would support a ban on all Muslims entering the country. And the hatred against the Faith of Islam, the attacks on Muslims we have seen recently!
I’ll tell you something, these right-wing so-called Christians that wave their Bibles around so much, they speak of “the fall of mankind”, as something that happened about seven or ten thousand years ago, in the garden of Eden, when Eve ate the apple (did you know there’s no mention of an apple in this biblical story?); but they bemoan how we lost our innocent perfection, by partaking of the forbidden fruit. This is what I say, to Americans and all others who long to see their military in action: this present time is our fall from grace as a nation, and as a people. It is the acceptance of an abnormal, ungodly act, the act of warfare, as if it is normal, and even desirable. This is our time of failure, as a nation. This is what history will point to, if there is any history left at all, after World War Three.
We were sucked into an invasion of Afghanistan. As soon as we got used to that, We attacked another country unnecessarily, Iraq. Now, we have our drones, eternally terrorizing the nations of Yemen and Pakistan. Our Special forces and secret operations are taking place all over Africa. Our government is plotting the downfall of the Maduro government in Venezuela. While we weren’t paying attention, our NGOs financed a coup d’état in Ukraine, right on Russia’s doorstep. And if Putin hadn’t secured Crimea, the USA would have had ships in the naval base there by this time.
And so, our character, as a country, has changed significantly, over the past fifteen years. We had been sickened by war, during the Vietnam years. We would have been shocked to look into the future to this present time. We wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are, and the conflicts of the world, many of them due to American meddling, are about to suddenly boil over, to blow up! Ukraine, Syria, the middle-east, these places are a keg of gunpowder, and we, as a nation, have made this powder-keg our permanent seat.
We are watching Star Wars. This is our plan of action. We are entertained into complacency. We have all lost our minds, that’s what has happened. Lost our moral compass as a nation. It can’t be long before the USA will begin to reap what we have sown, by becoming a military nation.
I hope and pray for only good for the people of the USA, and people everywhere. The grace, the patience of God, is amazing, and I pray for grace upon all. I pray that destruction is delayed, long enough for individuals to look around, and say, hey this is not for me. I’ll be a war resister. Soldiers can refuse to fight. We can find personal spiritual salvation, at least, by denouncing this horrid foreign policy, that sows death and destruction everywhere it touches.
I pray that we don’t give up on hope.
And this is not to say that praying is enough. It’s not the only thing we do. We follow our revolutionary teachers, people like Chris Hedges, for instance. We resist, we protest, we boycott, we try to affect politics. We speak, we write. We take action.
I only insist that whatever we do, we follow the teachings and examples of the great teachers, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, and as we learn of them, even the peaceful teachings of the Quran (or Koran). For my atheist friends, this doesn’t require any faith in any God; I only mean that we must be non-violent, which most of you already understand.
PEACE be upon us all.

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Republican Culpability

Today, it seems that I have a number of things that have been ruminating in my mind for some few days. Perhaps these things will fit together somewhat.

For one, there are the continual streams of lies and misleading statements from the Republican party. The most prominent lie has to do with their promotion of the video depicting Planned Parenthood as a purveyor of body parts from fetuses. And remember the efforts to de-fund P. Parenthood as well.

Now some Republicans are whining that it makes them look bad, since they did and said all of these things, which obviously influenced the Colorado attacker to commit murder at the Planned Parenthood clinic there.

Well, you poor bastards. Does it make you look bad? That’s because you all, and your party, ARE BAD! You are a scourge, a plague, and now, partners in murder.

Next, there is the matter about all of the many cases of police misbehavior and murder, especially against minorities, blacks in particular. Someone said that this is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on for many years.What is new, is the widespread use of smart phones, which have video capability. This statement is true.

However, I think there is one aspect of it that IS new. Ever since Obama became President, the Republicans have insinuated, by their words and by their approbation of others who use hateful speeches, that the President is acting like some sort of dictator. There is no evidence of this, but never mind that, they constantly say he is “overstepping his boundaries”, unilaterally forcing things upon the American people that they don’t like or need, against the will of Congress.

It’s the same old white lie that has been used from the beginning. They say, “This black man has gotten ‘too-big-for-his-britches’. He is acting ‘uppity’. Who does he think he is, anyway? He took sides with the looters in Ferguson! [A lie]” It’s a transparent cloak for racist antipathy.

These insinuations and accusations have been embraced quickly by those of our society who were predisposed to racial prejudice. So here is another way that the Republican Party has harmed our society and driven back progress. I believe that a segment of the police forces in America have paid special attention to all of this hate speech directed toward our President, and attributed it to his race.

It is a small leap of thought to understand how that this hatred of the black race that many police have secretly harbored for years, could be suddenly inflamed by listening to the words of Congressmen of the opposition, which is then echoed, and distorted by conservative television news and by talk radio shows.

I believe this hatred is responsible for some of these many murders of black citizens in recent years, not to discount the usual amount of police misbehavior directed at whites.

So you can see now, how the Republican party shares responsibility for ALL of the police brutality that we have now finally been able to witness, as a result of the benefits of video technology.

Even our founding fathers of this nation warned against political parties that were at war with their own government. The stated goal of this Republican party has been, from the beginning of the Obama era, to screw up and destroy everything that the President tries to do. Also, they have purposely allowed things to go bad, knowing they could just pass the blame on to the President. A segment of our society, racist Americans, are more than willing to believe this. They even join in the game themselves, against all reason and logic, blaming the President for everything that’s wrong in their lives.

So, then, an obstructionist Congress, even a destructive Congress, has been allowed to bring most of the President’s initiatives to a halt. It’s easy to throw a wrench into the engine, rather than trying to do any good, and then, they know that people will just blame the President, and they come off looking like righteous soldiers, standing up for radical conservatism.

Now is a time, obviously, of great global upheaval. There are many urgent needs that need to be attended to. Millions are refugees, homeless, helpless. Women and children, elderly people, as well as men of working age, are in desperate need of help. If there was ever a time for action from Congress, this is it. But NO, what do the Republicans do? Throw up obstruction, throw a wrench into the works once again, by PRETENDING that our vetting process for refugees is insufficient. This was done with NO EVIDENCE, but only with the secure knowledge that it would make them look good, in the eyes of Americans who have been panicked by watching Fox News, the media arm of the Republican party and the Tea party.

This is another example of  heartless, cynical maneuvering by them, destroying poor refugees in the process, overburdening Europe and providing a bad example for the world to follow in dealing with these Syrian refugees. While these Republicans and Presidential candidates claim to be SO Christian, they act as though they don’t believe there is a God who loves these refugees, and who sees all of this Republican mischief, and will require it at their hands some day.

The Dangers of GITMO prison camp

Danger GITMO
As someone who is passionate about the need to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Naval Base, (which must be done as a first step in RETURNING this bay to it’s rightful owners, the Cuban people), I am just sickened to see this mess in Congress, as Mitch McConnell gloats over the fact that they have included a prohibition on the transfer of inmates from there to the USA, or to anywhere at all, even to foreign countries, included this into the Defense Authorization Bill. He boasts that it is veto-proof, since they have enough votes to over-ride.
The following is from The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/10/senate-defense-budget-bill-bans-transfer-guantanamo-bay-prisoners-to-us
Barack Obama’s efforts to fulfil his promise of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention centre before he leaves office were dealt a significant blow on Tuesday as the Senate passed legislation preventing the administration from relocating prisoners to the United States.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has the primary purpose of setting the US Defense Department budget, passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 91-3 in a faster-than-usual passage through Congress, designed in part to frustrate White House plans to announce a new Guantánamo closure strategy.Barack Obama’s efforts to fulfil his promise of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention centre before he leaves office were dealt a significant blow on Tuesday as the Senate passed legislation preventing the administration from relocating prisoners to the United States.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has the primary purpose of setting the US Defense Department budget, passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 91-3 in a faster-than-usual passage through Congress, designed in part to frustrate White House plans to announce a new Guantánamo closure strategy.
END QUOTE
The evil bastards of the Congress that have thrown up this roadblock, at exactly the same time that the President finally was giving them his plan to close down Guantanamo, what is their reasoning? Do they believe that our maximum-security prisons stateside are incapable of holding these inmates? They’re up in arms, saying that their citizens will be endangered in such a case.
This from RT News:
On Thursday, the $607 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sailed through with 370-58 vote.
The White House criticized the decision, saying it did not make “fiscal or national security sense” to continue operating the prison, located in Cuba, which costs $400 million a year to run. Barack Obama promised to close the detention center in his election campaign before winning his first term in 2008. Since then, he has repeatedly stated that it serves as a recruitment tool for Islamist extremists, and a stain on America’s legal reputation.

Fifty-three of its inmates have been cleared of any charges, while the others face legal cases that have stalled, regardless of their degree of guilt.

On Thursday, 28 retired officers sent an open letter to Obama, encouraging him to persist with his efforts to close down Guantanamo.
“Our [mainland] prisons house hundreds of convicted terrorists. None has ever escaped,” the letter reads.

END QUOTE
This from The Guardian:
One of the places reportedly being considered to house the inmates is Colorado, which Republican senator Cory Gardner is not too happy about. His objection is not the clear unconstitutional nature of holding prisoners indefinitely without charges, but the absurd notion that it is somehow dangerous to bring alleged terrorists into prisons in the United States, where dozens of convicted terrorists have resided for decades without incident.
As he told the Guardian last week: “I will not sit idly by while the president uses political promises to imperil the people of Colorado by moving enemy combatants from Cuba, Guantánamo Bay, to my state of Colorado.”

Republicans apparently still cling to the wholly imagined, cartoonish version of Guantánamo detainees. They believe that, if they’re held in a supermax prison inside the United States, they will somehow gain X-Men-level superhuman powers on a par with Magneto and will be able to escape facilities that no one has ever escaped from before and wreak havoc on local communities. (Civilian trials for alleged terrorists, which are far more effective than the badly broken military commission system at getting convictions, are also opposed by Republicans for the same reason.)

Ben Carson – somehow still the Republican frontrunner – has a section of his website under “Ben on the issues” called “Keep Guantánamo open” where he explains that “[w]e must keep our detention facility at Gitmo open”, which could just as easily have said: “We must keep the world’s most effective recruiting tools for Isis and al-Qaida open.” (Even former president George W Bush, of all people, has said Gitmo remains “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies”.) Article by Trevor Timm http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/12/obama-close-guantanamo-without-congress
First, let’s get some interesting facts before you, reader, about these inmates at this “Terrorist prison”.
A report by Seton Hall University shows that the United States only captured 5 percent of its Guantánamo prisoners. They were not “enemy combatants”: Pakistan and the Northern Alliance sold 86 percent of the men to the United States for a bounty, sometimes of up to $5,000. Of the current prisoners, only three were captured by the United States.
THE REPORT
Among the data revealed by this Report:
1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any
hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.
2. Only 8% of the detainees were characteri
zed as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining
detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with
al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive
affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
3. The Government has detained numerous pe
rsons based on mere affiliations with a
large number of groups that in fact, are not on
the Department of Homeland Security terrorist
watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably.
Eight percent are detained because they are deemed
“fighters for;” 30% considered “members of;” a
large majority – 60% — are detained merely because they are “associated with” a group or groups the
Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For
2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist
group is unidentified.
4. Only 5% of the detainees were captu
red by United States forces. 86% of the
detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the
Northern Alliance and turned over to United States
custody.
This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or
the Northern Alliance were handed over to the
United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected
enemies.
5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants – mostly
Uighers – are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to
be enemy combatants.
___________________________
ASHEZ: So if you’re the average American, you must be shocked to realize this. All of the expense, all the torture, the renditions, for all of this time, thirteen years this monstrous prison has been demonstrating to the world how the USA became a traitor to our long-held high ideas about human rights. Rights we have preached to the world about as if from some high, lofty moral ground. Preached to Cuba, as we used their human-rights record to justify our crippling embargo against them, against those from whom the USA illegally hold this territory, this Guantanamo Naval Base. And it has all been for what? To keep hundreds of people, most of whom are probably innocent, locked up? After reading the book made of the diary of Mohammad Ould Slahi, a GITMO inmate, I am personally convinced of his innocence. Actually, he seems like a more upright fellow that most people I know. [Guantanamo Diary]
Shaker Aamer, the British Gitmo detainee, who was recently released, was proved to be almost certainly innocent.
This from The Guardian:
Aamer says he signed a false confession after being tortured. He alleges that while at Bagram he was kept awake for over a week, chained in excruciating positions for hours, deprived of sleep and food, and doused in freezing water in the middle of winter.
Shaker Aamer, UK’s last detainee in Guantánamo Bay, to be freed.
He was first reported to have been cleared for release in 2007, along with three other Britons, after the US authorities admitted they did not have a case against him. Aamer says he signed a false confession after being tortured. He alleges that while at Bagram he was kept awake for over a week, chained in excruciating positions for hours, deprived of sleep and food, and doused in freezing water in the middle of winter.
He was first reported to have been cleared for release in 2007, along with three other Britons, after the US authorities admitted they did not have a case against him.
End quote.
Okay, so since it surely CAN NOT BE that grown men, Congressmen, actually believe that these prisoners are too dangerous to be held in USA prisons, what is going on here, really? And let me illustrate that these are mostly Republicans, who pride themselves in trying to hold down government spending. This prison is costing a lot to run; 2.3 million per inmate per year, times 112, would be $257,000,000. And higher figures have been used for this by others.
These Republicans understand that it was their President who opened this prison camp. Now, if these prisoners are moved anywhere, it becomes more likely that the truth of their unjust incarceration will be uncovered. We can pretend, now, that GITMO is a rights-free zone, but once stateside, it must be admitted that these inmates have some human rights. Their individual stories will eventually be told.
Think how utterly STUPID this entire escapade will appear, when the truth comes out. In the Republicans’ view, much better to keep them ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’. So there you have the mystery of why the Congress is opposing this closing, instead of trying to facilitate the President’s righteous wish to close the torture gulag in Cuba.
Here are the words of the President of the United States, whom the Congress so gleefully and spitefully are opposing.
“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – 10 years from now, or 20 years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country … Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children? – ‘Future of fight against terrorism’ speech, 23 May 2013
“And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantánamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.” – State of the union address, 28 January 2014
________________________________________
Some more enlightening words:
In thousands of pages of documents dating from 2002 to 2008 and never seen before by members of the public or the media, the cases of the majority of the prisoners held at Guantánamo — 765 out of 779 in total — are described in detail in memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.
These memoranda, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), contain JTF-GTMO’s recommendations about whether the prisoners in question should continue to be held, or should be released (transferred to their home governments, or to other governments). They consist of a wealth of important and previously undisclosed information, including health assessments, for example, and, in the cases of the majority of the 172 prisoners who are still held, photos (mostly for the first time ever).
They also include information on the first 201 prisoners released from the prison, between 2002 and 2004, which, unlike information on the rest of the prisoners (summaries of evidence and tribunal transcripts, released as the result of a lawsuit filed by media groups in 2006), has never been made public before. Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the US was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
what the Guantánamo Files reveal, primarily, is that only a few dozen prisoners are genuinely accused of involvement in terrorism.
The rest, these documents reveal on close inspection, were either innocent men and boys, seized by mistake, or Taliban foot soldiers, unconnected to terrorism. Moreover, many of these prisoners were actually sold to US forces, who were offering bounty payments for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, by their Afghan and Pakistani allies — a policy that led ex-President Musharraf to state, in his 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, the Pakistani government “earned bounty payments totalling millions of dollars.”

Liberal Christianity

COEXIST3
Liberal Christians and Friends of Other Faiths

by Thomas Ashes

Some time ago, I decided that there was a need, in our modern society, for a place to discuss the many issues that Christians and all people must deal with. Everyone is aware that we live in a time of great change. Many church-goers are upset about these changes, and to me, these people seem to be retreating back into their comfort zone, and becoming even more conservative, more fearful. In dealing with these changes, I feel that we are being poorly served by the traditional Church. I know that many others agree.
We are tired of hearing from the religious right, the conservatives, that the Republican political party is representative of most Christians, and that liberals are all irreligious heathen.
The fundamentalists of the religious right have attempted to hijack our Faith. Some of them may mean well, but too often, they come across as being bigoted against minorities, and terribly closed-minded. They have become pawns for the wealthy backers of the Republican Party of the USA, a political party that claims to have the moral high ground. We see this as a deception. After all, the Republicans, and the Tea Party have become the party of guns, of resentment against immigrants, of hawkish war-mongers, and bigots of every kind, hateful of anyone who is not of their race, and seeking ways to discriminate against those among us who may not be in a traditional heterosexual relationship.
We are Christians, and we don’t think that the hypocrisy demonstrated by the religious right represents us at all. We see more good in the liberal left side of the political spectrum. We see more love in those who resist military action, in those who care deeply for immigrants and for persecuted minorities. This is not to advocate for any political party. But we would like to trash the common notion that the Republican right-wing is somehow the ‘party of God’.
But as Christians, we understand that we must be a loving, inclusive people. We must face the fact that in a changing society, God gives us the wisdom to accept and support those who are different from us, whether the difference is a matter of race, Faith, or sexuality.
We see a need to return to a progressive concern for the poor, for the unemployed, for those that need health care. True Christians are not people who hate science. We are not ‘married’ to conservative economic theories. Of course, such terms as “trickle-down” are nowhere to be found in the Bible.

There seems to be some interest in a form of Christianity that is not weighed down by the negative aspects of right-wing fundamentalism. I like to call the typical conservative Christian ‘extremists’, to borrow from the terminology often unfairly applied to Muslims. We can abandon extremist views. So there is an opportunity to begin afresh and anew. One only need accept that the same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers of the Bible can still lead us today. And perhaps, after 2000 years, it is time for an update, as to how we, as Christians, relate to the world around us.
If we understand that the church must evolve, and that God is still, today, providing his/her people with modern guidance, we can feel more free to actually abandon some of the teachings of the Bible, understanding that the writers were influenced by the culture of their day. We can develop new and more inclusive doctrines. We can adopt a kinder form of Christianity.
After all, what is it about Christianity that many people find offensive, or upsetting, and difficult to believe? Most of the criticism is directed toward the concept of a god who sends the vast majority of people to some eternal hell after they die, as a punishment for their unbelief, or their belief in an “incorrect” religion. Well, so let’s do away with that completely, as a positive first step.
I believe that the key to understanding everything, in relation to the teachings of Christianity, is a true understanding of the term, ‘grace’. There is more than one definition, but the important one for us is this: grace is ‘unmerited favor’. In other words, acceptance, with no strings attached. There is much more that could be said here, but I want to keep it simple.
Even more important, and key to being really inclusive, is the understanding that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17, Revised Standard Version). In this scripture we see that it is God’s will for all in the world to be saved. My ideas on this may be attacked, but all I am saying is that Christ was successful, in doing what he came to do. He did a good job. God did a good job in assuring that his/her will actually would be done. [Having acknowledged that God is both Father and Mother, not having a strictly male identity, I will just use ‘He’ from now on.]
In the next verse, John 18, there are words to the effect that those who don’t believe will be “condemned”. This doesn’t mean that people who aren’t Christians will be damned. I look at it as a way out, for those few who will refuse eternal life. I know that God is so loving that He would never force anything upon anyone. So, for those who reject life, he will give them annihilation. Actually, one must acknowledge the many scriptures that seem to indicate that many will not come to salvation. I am no expert, nor a prophet. Maybe we, who believe that salvation can come to all who want it, are mistaken.
But Christ came to save all mankind. Was He a success? Of course he was. But the traditional teaching of the church is that in spite of Christ’s coming, in spite of the fact that it is God’s will for all to be saved, for most, it has failed to bring salvation. They say that all those of differing Faiths, and all those who fail to adhere to their teachings, are bound for something worse than death. This failure to be saved would apply to all who never heard of Christianity. And so, they say that God’s will, his plan for saving us, will be carried out only for a small group. They believe the will of God has been thwarted, somehow. I can’t believe this. I believe God succeeded, in accomplishing His will, and that all who wish to be, are, or will be, saved.
And the specter of a future in which a small fraction of God’s created beings live in bliss, while ten times that many fry forever in unspeakable agony, this is obviously so absurd, that it’s not worth an argument.
As a result, I live in a world with only one supernatural supreme being, who is supremely loving and benevolent toward all of his/ her creation, and who has nothing but good planned for everyone. All of humanity are my brothers and sisters. It’s a good place to be.
This new attitude allows us to look at persons of all good Faiths as our brothers and sisters. It does away with the need to have only one “true” religion, a concept that has been, and is now, the cause of a great deal of horrible violence, wars, and factionalism.
In contrast, the average church-goer believes in a world where two supernatural beings are in competition, in a war against each other. One of these beings hates God’s people. According to this belief, which is not based on the Bible at all, this ‘devil’ has been rewarded for his rebellion, being given a kingdom with millions of ‘demons’ all of whom also hate the Christians, and are out to hurt us, to kill us. They say that God is all-powerful, but in spite of that, everything is going to get worse and worse, we will be attacked, more and more, by a wicked world, until God gets so angry that he throws all non-believers into eternal hell. This is an unfortunate ending, but evidently they think there is nothing God can do to prevent it. God’s will is not done; the devil’s will is done, for the most part. The devil is finally thrown into hell as well, but I would like to point out the injustice of the fact that while millions have been suffering in hell for so long, according to this doctrine, the devil has been having a free-for-all for thousands of years. What kind of justice is that?
Most people believe they are sinful, and that God is often angry with them for their faults, their mistakes, their sins. This feeling is amplified by our society, if one is homosexual, or if one is transsexual. People are belittled if they become homeless, which is becoming a crime, more and more. If they are sick, if they are a failure, it is because God is angry with them. They sinned, and so this came upon them.
They are made to believe that people of other races, with different Faiths, are serving the devil, and so they are our enemies. They believe that God is angry with these foreigners, and that eventually, God will kill them and send them all to hell. So, I suppose that makes it easier to agree with sending troops and bombers to kill them. This is an important statement, and is the root of much of the warfare occurring in our world.

I don’t like to go into a lot of religious argument. But that was necessary, in order to explain how that a group of liberal Christians could accept members who are of differing Faiths, or of an agnostic or atheist persuasion. As a doctrine, it’s called ‘universality’. Salvation is universally available to all.
I would love to be a part of a group that speaks truth and love to those who need to hear it, not to evangelize or to proselytize, but to bring comfort to the disheartened, and discomfort to those who are abusive and exploitative of people and of the planet. I know that many Christians will be quite put-off by these concepts. But some will think about it, and evolve. And it doesn’t matter if we all agree, or if some can only agree somewhat. The obsession we have had for centuries, that all must agree with all church doctrine, can be cast aside. With no condemnation to be feared, the door is opened wide for a wonderful new atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of those who may differ from us, in our beliefs.
Universalism, the belief that ALL will be ‘saved’ (or, ‘are’ saved) is not a new thing. Christian Universalists have been around, as a small minority, for hundreds of years. Even now there is a movement called Progressive Christianity. A few ministers are joining in these groups, like Carlton Pearson. Many have called him a heretic, because of his universalist views. He was the pastor of a huge Church, who were traditionally fundamentalist, and evangelistic. He says he had an epiphany which changed his mind.
To be true to his vision, he suffered the loss of his church, and has been rejected by most of those who were his closest supporters and friends. But God gave him a new church, one that is growing, and doing well.
There are a number of Churches who call themselves Progressive Christian, The United Church. These seem to be something along the line of what I have in mind, though I am unfamiliar with them and with Carlton Pearson as well, at this time.
But, putting aside doctrinal differences, even those who believe in hell will admit that it is God’s will for all to be saved, and that anyone, without exception, is welcome to become a child of God. There are differences about what kind of requirements one must meet. But why can’t we set those things aside, too? Why can’t we accept everyone, as Jesus would do?
The problem with traditional evangelical Christianity is this: the first thing they have to say to most people is, “You’re going to hell.” What kind of “good news” is that? [The meaning of ‘gospel’ is good news.] But then they will say, “Oh, but there is a way to avoid hell. All you have to do is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.” But what you will be told, over time, is that many things about you must change. Basically, you’re required to fit the mold. You must dress in certain ways, have a certain political viewpoint, and actually agree to everything you’re spoon-fed over the next year or more, things that lay down their particular viewpoint about virtually everything.
You are told to avoid all of the traditions of their parents, if they are from other Faiths, and, incidentally, that those parents went to hell, where they will be forever. You may be required to change your sexual orientation to avoid going to hell. This is a terrible way to try to win people over.
The illogical and ridiculous vision of a god who would create people who would never hear of Jesus, and then send them to hell, is impossible to accept. To ask people to change in ways that are impossible for them is unacceptable.
Some may ridicule my vision of a loving God who accepts all of his children, without exception. But to try to support the idea of a God who sends the majority of his creation to some eternal punishment, is even more difficult, and is being rejected by many, for good reasons.
And when one does away with the concept of hell, then immediately the whole question of being “saved” can be rethought. Because what did it mean, to be saved? It meant being saved from hell. So why must we speak of being “saved” at all? Let’s speak of receiving Christ. Let’s speak of positive things. It’s an entirely different ‘ball-game’.
I have recognized the very ugly side of this right-wing kind of ‘christianity’. Almost every time someone attacks some gay couple, the attacker is spouting scriptures from the Bible as they do it. Their message is, “God hates you!” Well, if they think God hates, they why wouldn’t they be hateful as well?
It is so easy to understand, when one looks at both sides, which side are the ones on the side of love, and goodness. It’s the ones who are supportive, accepting, and loving with their gay brothers and sisters. It’s the better way, obviously.
This doesn’t mean accepting ungodly relationships, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Everyone who is concerned about morality at all understands that sexual relationships should be thoughtfully considered, so that no one is hurt. We know what immorality looks like. But there are homosexual couples, in serious, committed relationships that seem much more happy and holy than their conservative counterparts.

I claim no special insight. I’m not a leader, not a preacher of any kind. I’m just saying something that needs to be said, and saying it at my personal peril, too, I might add. I open myself up for a lot of criticism, and persecution, even if I am writing under an assumed name. I am just a Christian, who has changed many of my views, over time, which is a good thing. I have evolved. We all must evolve. The writers of the Bible didn’t know there was an India, an America, or a Siberia. Europe and part of Asia, and northern Africa was as far as the world went, as far as they knew. They didn’t know they were writing the Bible. Nowhere is it written that God would stop all divine revelation when the Bible became complete. Nowhere is it written that the only true teachers and Holy men and women would all be Christian.
Worldwide, all true religions teach that God is loving, merciful, and good. I’m not saying to accept any new gods, but perhaps these various religions are all based in fact upon the same God. All of the major Faiths, at their best (in their true form) teach that salvation, or enlightenment, is a product of God’s grace. Salvation is something that God has done, not something that we must do. To simply accept this is not too much to ask, and maybe that’s all that God is asking for. Salvation by grace, plus…nothing; grace alone.

Here are some scriptures that seem to back-up my assertion that everyone who wants salvation, eternal life, will find it.
1Corinthians 15, verse 22.
1Timothy 4, verse 10.
Colossians 1, verse 17.
Matthew 18, verse 14.

Yes, it’s high time that we reclaim Christianity for the normal people, everyday people of all nationalities. To take it back for liberals, who care about people in need, and who realize that when the churches and charities fail to meet the needs of society, it falls to government to take up the slack. High taxes on corporations and the wealthy, along with social programs, big government programs, along with strong labor unions; these were what made the prosperity of my parents. These were the base upon which a rocket to the moon was launched, This was the formula that created the Interstate Highway system, the largest man-made project in history.
Everything we have done to serve this idiotic idol erected by the religious right-wing has been a mistake, and has brought us to this awful time, when we are deciding whether or not to just hand the government over to the rich, and relinquish all control over our lives, hopelessly existing until we die. This is the meaning of the Supreme Court decision called “Citizens United”. The flood-gates of corrupting campaign contributions have been opened wide.
That’s why good people everywhere need to wake up. We can’t trust the existing churches to lead people. They have ‘dropped the ball, big time’.

I believe there is a good case to be made that the various Faiths can be reconciled, to a great extent. The Christian and the Jewish Faiths both use the same Torah, or Old Testament. The Muslims and the Israelis are all descended from the same ancestor, Abraham. The religions are similar in many ways. The Buddhists, and the Hindus, and all good religions teach LOVE, and kindness, and the golden rule of doing for others as we would have them do for us.
Even if there is disagreement, we can live in peace. We can start with tolerance, and work our way towards acceptance, in as much as it’s possible. Speaking hopefully, we can even work together for the common good of all, instead of striving for the destruction of everything we feel is wrong, so our particular cult can be advanced.

In the words of the band, Canned Heat, I say…
“Let’s get together. Because together we’ll stand, every boy, girl, woman and man!”
And the new, liberal Christians can work alongside everyone, without exception (for good causes), accepting ALL as children of God, our brothers and sisters.

One That I Wrote Before the War.

The Post Written Before the War.

1. Tragedies all around. And we are immediately reminded that nothing will be done to solve the problems, as usual. We are told that the President is “politicizing” the Oregon shooting. It is not a political act to see an obvious problem, and then try to show the way forward, to fix the problem. It is politicizing, when one takes large sums of money from pro-gun lobbies, in order to sell your soul to the gun sellers, at the price of hundreds of innocents lost every year to gun violence.
2. The Syria/refugee problem. The media is in an anti-Russia frenzy because Putin is meddling by taking an active role there. The USA has been involved for years, our people there fomenting unrest, planting the seeds for regime-change. The USA has found that, win or lose, we can destroy a country, and there we gain numerous permanent bases, or mini-bases, where our special-ops people, the President’s private army, can carry out missions. And then, no matter what, the pushers of guns, missiles, military hardware, bombs and so forth, can be assured of a huge windfall, on a permanent basis.
The Republicans call out for President Obama to “push back”, in response. It is always about getting out the punishing whip, to discipline the naughty boy, Putin, and make him do our bidding. Such politicians are insane. Vladimir Putin represents a world-class superpower, a nuclear power. Full-on war would amount to the end of the world as we know it. And full-on war is not beyond the realm of possibilities. One mid-air collision, a known possibility over Syria now, and who knows how far or how fast things could escalate.
3. Our oldest middle-east problem, our longest war ever, since it is not over, Afghanistan has seen fighting today between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. The Pentagon admitted than Special Forces there had to be involved directly in the gunfight. They were there, ostensibly, as “advisors”. Does no one remember that our first troops in Vietnam were there as advisors? This is how every war is begun, or perpetuated.
The Taliban claim to have shot down a Hercules C-130 aircraft, a huge plane, killing six US soldiers and five American contractors. NATO has not admitted to the cause. But Wrecked through poor maintenance, pilot error, or by Taliban fire, if we keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, there will be casualties [plus who knows how many contractor mercenaries]. This war is, by no means, over. The Republican cry is for “boots on the ground, and the more, the better.” But, in fairness, I must admit that the Dems have their hawks as well.
A couple days ago, aerial bombing accidentally killed twelve staff members of the organization, Doctors without Borders, and seven patients. Nobody thinks it was the work of the Taliban air force. Thirty people are unaccounted for.
4. British politics: Jeremy Corbyn has been elected the leader of the Labour Party. He has publicly stated that he does not believe nuclear weapons are effective and that he, personally would never “push the nuclear button” under any circumstance. Well, if all world leaders would simply make that same statement, what a sigh of relief we could all collectively breathe!
But, no; Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary disagrees, saying that if Britain is going to have nuclear weapons, we must be willing to use them “if something happens”. Numerous others in Labour have registered their disagreement with Mr. Corbyn on his personal stand on this issue.
To someone such as I, who comes from a planet that doesn’t tolerate the indiscriminate killing of massive numbers of civilians, this disagreement with a phenomenally good man seems insane. Of course, every world leader, and all those running for high office should publicly forswear the use of any form of nuclear weapon, as a first, second, or last dying response, or whatever!
5. And what is NATO doing now? This European arm of the USA military is performing massive war-games on Russia’s border. This is another blatant example of saber-rattling and provocation, aimed at the Russians. We complain to high heaven that Putin is building up troops along the Ukrainian border, but then we out-do his ten-fold, by openly building up our troops along Russia’s border.
This is the report from RT News:
NATO has started its biggest exercise since 2002 with 36,000 international troops from 30 states, including non-NATO nations, participating in the drills which are taking place at sea, in the air and across the territory of three European states.
The alliance has kicked off its massive “Trident Juncture 2015” exercises which will last until November 16. Along with the NATO member states, seven more partner nations are participating in the drills: Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sweden and Ukraine.
Some 36,000 troops as well as more than 60 warships and about 200 aircraft will participate in the drills which makes it the biggest since 2002 when about 40,000 troops took part in NATO’s “Strong Resolve” military exercise.
http://www.rt.com/news/317564-trident-juncture-nato-drills/
6. As for the distant US Presidential election, I will only say that every minute of this reporting, not only of true contenders, but of every fool who wants to be president, only takes away any chance that Americans will ever be educated about the many truly urgent issues at hand. Our blissfully ignorant populace will assuredly continue to be so, and even those who listen to the news will know more about pop music than world events. The politically alert will learn the positions of every hopeless candidate, and NOTHING about the approaching nuclear wars, climate disasters, humanitarian catastrophes, unless you are one of the few who search for and weed-out the truly important news. So here we stand, on the very edge, the cusp of the time when our democracy was lost to those with great wealth. We were lulled to sleep with idle talk, campaign promises, while our democracy was bought right out from under us.

A Letter From Me to the Reader.

A Letter.
From me to the reader.

In 2004, I had a web blog (web log?), called Left USA, on which I criticized the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
I saw plainly that the USA had made a terrible mistake, in electing a man, George W. Bush, who was more than ready to become a “war President”, and then by allowing these wars to take place. There were massive protests, yes. But it would be several years before many in the media would arrive at the same conclusion I had reached in 2004. The following is an excerpt:
Now, I find myself in the only country in the world that is currently expanding our sphere of influence in the world by invading and taking over other countries. And the recent history proves that these occupied nations are in every way worse off after our invasion. There is more opium production than ever in Afghanistan.
Iraq is a total mess, by our own admission. The only victory we can claim is the recent elections, if it be a victory at all. The pro-American slate did not win the election. The Sunnis boycotted the elections. Now, we keep our fingers crossed, hoping to avoid sectarian violence. The Kurds want autonomy. The Sunnis want a say in government (which the Shia are quick to agree to at present, but wait until “push comes to shove”). In this time following the election, violence has not abated.
Fears are that the insurgency will even grow worse. If the US forces withdraw, chaos could be the result. If they stay, the resistance will be energized.

All of this because we elected a man who said he would fight “the forces of evil”, by removing from office a man who was supposedly an “imminent threat” to the world. We deposed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. All of this was supposed to be somehow to avenge ourselves of the attack upon the World Trade Center. We have since discovered that Iran and Afghanistan had nothing to do with the attack. We were duped by our own leadership.

So one must re-examine our former ideas about the inherent goodness of the United States of America.
But we need not hang around to watch it all go down the tube. I suggest
to all who are like-minded to consider emigrating to a more civil country.
One doesn’t need to go far. Canada is a lovely country, quite
accessible, and their west coast is beautiful (and the rest, as well).
South America has some nice places. Cuba has its good points.
The cost of living in some of these places is much lower than in the
States. And if things keep going the same here, what with the patriot
act and all, you’ll probably have more freedom of speech over there, and
feel much less threatened in your new foreign home.
[End]
As you can see, even then I was considering leaving the USA. There were other things in my life at that time that made me think of foreign travel. For over a decade I had been a sign painter and designer. I specialized in painting big, high billboards on location, hanging a walkway by ropes. This entire industry underwent a sudden change in the early 2000s. Now almost none of them are hand-painted. They are printed on gigantic printing machines, onto vinyl, and stretched over the face of the sign. My trade had become obsolete.
Additionally, I had injured myself badly, by falling from a sign. My ankle was permanently deformed, as a result, and now one leg is longer than the other. My climbing and painting days were over, for two big reasons, you see. So I felt it would be good to go into teaching English overseas. This I did, in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic from 2002 to 2010. At the time of the Left USA post above, I had been to Slovakia, and then returned for a year or so, before going to Czech.
Even then, I felt pretty pessimistic about the possibility of progressive change in America. But since then, day by day, I have grown even less hopeful about the country. After being back for five years now, I have determined to leave again. This time, I want to go to Cuba, to personally protest the presence of the Guantanamo torture gulag, and to demand, alongside the Cuban people, that the military base there be dismantled, and returned to the rightful owner.
The final last straw, for me, was my disappointment in the fact that Gitmo has not been closed down, despite the promise of the President to do so. He has been strongly resisted, of course, by the Republicans, who vow to keep the damned thing open forever. I think there will be enough of these savages in government to succeed in doing just that.
Still, I must go, and be a witness against my own country, come what may. There are people there now, held illegally in permanent detention, with no rights at all. In fact, that is the reason they were taken there; to establish a “no-human-rights zone”, outside of the USA. I contend that military bases ARE part of the country, and so it is impossible to have such a place that is outside of the jurisdiction of the Constitution.
Here is an article about one of the Gitmo detainees: he wrote:
“Freedom should be much more precious for the human being than all the desires on earth. And we should never give it up regardless of how expensive the price may be.” – Tariq Ba Odah, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 2013
Witness Against Torture is calling for an emergency fast to highlight the case of Guantánamo prisoner, Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni man who has been detained at the prison without charge since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009. According to his attorneys, Tariq, who at 74 pounds—56% of his ideal body weight– is on the brink of death according to three health officials. Please consider fasting on Friday, September 18, 2015 in solidarity with Tariq Ba Odah and the remaining 115 Guantánamo prisoners.
The following is an excerpt from an article by Amy Goodman:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/close_guantanamo_–_then_give_it_back_to_cuba_20150107
Posted on Jan 7, 2015
This week marks the 13th anniversary of the arrival of the first post-9/11 prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, the most notorious prison on the planet. This grim anniversary, and the beginning of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S and Cuba, serves as a reminder that we need to permanently close the prison and return the land to its rightful owners, the Cuban people. It is time to put an end to this dark chapter of United States history.
“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable,” President Barack Obama wrote nearly six years ago, in one of his first executive orders, on Jan. 22, 2009. Despite this, the prison remains open, with 127 prisoners left there after Kazakhstan accepted five who were released on Dec. 30. There have been 779 prisoners known to have been held at the base since 2002, many for more than 10 years without charge or trial. Thanks to WikiLeaks and its alleged source, Chelsea Manning, we know most of their names.
Col. Morris Davis was the chief prosecutor in Guantanamo from 2005 to 2007. He resigned, after an appointee of George W. Bush overrode his decision forbidding the use of evidence collected under torture. Davis later told me, “I was convinced we weren’t committed to having full, fair and open trials, and this was going to be more political theater than it was going to be justice.” Obama did create a special envoy for Guantanamo closure, although the person who most recently held the position, Cliff Sloan, abruptly resigned at the end of December without giving a reason. In a just-published opinion piece in The New York Times, Sloan wrote, “As a high-ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism (not from Europe) once told me, ‘The greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantanamo.’”
[End]
Guantanamo, and our ‘black sites’, where torture is still carried out, are indeed the greatest recruiting tools for ISIS, and Al Qaeda. The following are excerpts from a fine commentary on the ongoing USA torture program:
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
>http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-united-states-must-stop-perpetuating-an-ever-changing-enemy?tmpl=component&print=1
“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”
This was the Washington Post a few days ago, informing us wearily that the torture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So much moral relativism to evaluate.
What more can we learn that we don’t already know?
“On Nov. 20, 2002, (Gul) Rahman was found dead in his unheated cell. He was naked from the waist down and had been chained to a concrete floor. An autopsy concluded that he probably froze to death.”
So the Los Angeles Times informed us in December, in an article about two psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who were serving their country in the early days of the War on Terror by developing the CIA’s torture methodology.
“When he was left alone,” the article reported, describing another detainee’s experience, “(Abu) Zubaydah ‘was placed in a stress position, left on a waterboard with a cloth over his face, or locked in one of two confinement boxes.’
“In all, he spent 266 hours — 11 days and two hours — locked in the pitch-dark coffin, and 29 hours in a much smaller box. In response, he ‘cried,’ ‘begged,’ ‘whimpered’ and grew so distressed that ‘he was unable to effectively communicate,’ the interrogation team reported.
“The escalating torment, especially the waterboarding, affected some on the CIA team. ‘It is visually and psychologically very uncomfortable,’ one wrote. Several days later, another added, ‘Several on the team profoundly affected . . . some to the point of tears and choking up.’”
And a few weeks ago, The (U.K.) Telegraph, quoting from the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, described the experience of Majid Khan, who “was raped while in CIA custody (‘rectal feeding’). He was sexually assaulted in other ways as well, including by having his ‘private parts’ touched while he was hung naked from the ceiling. . . .
“‘Majid had an uncovered bucket for a toilet, no toilet paper, a sleeping mat and no light. . . . For much of 2003 he lived in total darkness.’”
And the awkward part of all this, for defenders of the military bureaucracy, is that these torture procedures produced no information of any value. We sold our soul to the devil and got nothing at all in return. Bad deal.
[End]
And now, even recently, you see Brennan and Cheney, and people of high office, saying that we can’t completely give up on the torture tactics. They justify those who were involved. The moral compass of our country has become de-evolved into a testosterone-stoked beating on the chest, of being “tough on terror”.
And so, I am pessimistic about the future of the country. I believe that dissent, which is already criminalized, will be tolerated less and less, until honest journalists will not be able to live state-side. They will be harassed and spied-upon, arrested, and marginalized more and more. And it’s getting worse fast. If, God forbid, a Republican gets into the white house, (and I don’t think it’s possible), but IF other candidates divide against each other, resulting in a Republican government, of course things will get worse immediately. I don’t think I would be safe if I stayed here, and continued to strongly criticize the USA government.
My problem IS with the government, you see, and not with the American people, most of whom have no idea what their government is doing. Which is a good reason to continue speaking out, strongly enough to make a difference, and to affect change.
But I believe I would be better-off in Cuba, which is a government that has, historically, not co-operated with the USA, though I know that no human on earth is beyond the reach of the American special forces.
So I’m making plans to go. I envision something like a tent, beside the road to Guantanamo Naval base, with big signs and banners, protesting daily. I know, it sounds simplistic, idealistic. It is. And I know there’ll be troubled times in this kind of mission. But I have made the decision to become a revolutionary. Chris Hedges described the revolutionary mind in this way:
I think that sublime madness — James Baldwin writes it’s not so much that [revolutionaries] have a vision, it’s that they are possessed by it. I think that’s right. They are often difficult, eccentric personalities by nature, because they are stepping out front to confront a system of power [in a way that is] almost a kind of a form of suicide. But in moments of extremity, these rebels are absolutely key; and that you can’t pull off seismic change without them.
Yet you rebel not only for what you can achieve, but for who you become. In the end, those who rebel require faith — not a formal or necessarily Christian, Jewish or Muslim orthodoxy, but a faith that the good draws to it the good. That we are called to carry out the good insofar as we can determine what the good is; and then we let it go. The Buddhists call it karma, but faith is the belief that it goes somewhere. By standing up, you keep alive another narrative. It’s one of the ironic points of life. That, for me, is what provides hope; and if you are not there, there is no hope at all.
[End quote.]
Well, I started out writing about my pessimism, and ended up with brother Hedges’ quote about hope. But I’m not pessimistic about everything. For my future, I see an exciting time, during which I’ll, no doubt, confront many challenges and problems. There will be set-backs, delays, and so-forth. But just to know that I am doing all I can, day in and day out, for a cause that I strongly believe in, this will give me enormous satisfaction. Also, I’m sure I’ll meet a lot of nice Cuban people, and have a lot of interesting conversations. And, not least, but lastly, I do have my faith in God, as a liberal Christian, and I know that He (/She) will go with me anywhere.
Thank you for being a reader.
Thomas Ashez

A progressive Christian on the Kim Davis debacle

Kim Davis
Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate, has spoken of the Kim Davis case as the beginning of “the criminalization of Christianity”. I think most of my readers are aware of the Kentucky County Court Clerk who is denying marriage licenses to all applicants, in order to discriminate against same-sex applicants.
I feel that I should say something on this subject, since I am a Christian with views that are different from those of Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee. I am not alone, though, as you can see by the letter below, from Faithful America, a progressive Christian organization.
Dear Faithful America member,
The Kentucky clerk who refused to obey a court order and grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples has been taken into federal custody.
The religious right is already doing its best to turn her into a martyr. Mike Huckabee is on TV insisting that this represents the “criminalization of Christianity” and “bowing to the false God of judicial supremacy.”
The sad truth is that right now, Kim Davis is the public face of Christianity in America. This is no longer just about marriage equality — it’s about whether being a Christian and being a bigot are one and the same.
It’s a fight only Christians can win. Our secular allies have won some amazing victories for equality, but only we can stop from anti-gay extremists from hijacking our faith with cries of religious persecution.
That’s what Faithful America is all about — bringing together hundreds of thousands of everyday Christians to raise our voices and show the nation another side of Christianity.
[End of excerpt]
Like many Christians, I am reluctant to actually endorse any lifestyle that is different to that which is set forth in the scriptures. But if one looks to the Bible for examples of marriage, one immediately finds that numerous holy men were polygamists. They had multiple wives. I wouldn’t want to endorse polygamy either. But, as a message to my faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, I must correct those who say that the government of the USA has to align itself with Christian or Jewish religious texts and teachings. My friends, anyone with any education at all knows that the Constitution of the United States actually forbids the promotion of specific religions, and that we actually live in a secular government, a democracy, wherein the beliefs and concerns of ALL citizens are to be honored equally.
These people, like Mike Huckabee, are making us all look like uneducated, bigoted fools.
Listen, I pray to God daily. And when I pray, I often say, “In Jesus’ name I pray”. But in a court of law in the USA, the words of Jesus, or of Moses, have no more authority than the words of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Or, for that matter, the teachings of the Buddha, or the Hindu writers and teachers. Indeed, the concerns and opinions of our citizens who happen to be atheists, agnostics, or Satan worshipers, are ALL TO BE GIVEN CONSIDERATION.
Whether you agree to this, or not, the courts, and judges of America DO AGREE WITH THIS. A basic lesson in vocabulary would inform you of the difference between a democracy and a theocracy. And once you looked these up in a dictionary, you would see that the closest thing to a theocracy is only to be found among the strictest Islamic dictatorships, and the only (self-proclaimed) Caliphate, the Islamic State, or ISIS. These people want a government that is run in accordance with their holy book, the Koran, or Quran. This is the meaning of the word, theocracy.
Christian friends, we must live our personal lives according to the dictates of our conscience. And in doing so, of course we must consult the Bible. But in matters of laws, and of marriage permits, or gun permits, or fishing licenses, or whatever has to do with government offices, we are all obliged to obey the law of the land. We are all NOW FREE to obey the convictions of our Faith. No one is required to marry someone of the same sex. No one is being required to put their ‘seal of approval’ on any marriage whatsoever. Kim Davis simply has to do her job, without discriminating against any group, whether it be divorcees (shouldn’t remarry, according to the words of Jesus, unless their spouse has died), or whether it be homosexuals that want to enjoy the same benefits as all the rest of us.
Perhaps one should consider not taking a job that might require them to do something that hurts their conscience. But to tell people that they can’t live according to their beliefs, or lack of beliefs, is not our place in the world. No one is being forced to become gay. You don’t even have to go to their church, or allow them to join your church. You can, and must, learn the concept of the separation of church and state.
This is the proper way to deal with such things, as Christian believers in God. This is the way of peace, of love, and of respect for all citizens.
In love,
Thomas

P.S. In matters concerning sexuality, marriage, and so forth, there is a good deal of latitude in allowing for different interpretations of the scriptures. Also, it is certainly true that the writers of the Biblical texts were influenced by the culture of the time in which they lived, 2000 years ago. Personally, I agree with some of the more liberal teachers, who doubt that Christians must accept all Biblical scriptures as being dogmatically correct and applicable to their situation.

Cuba

Che Guevarra
For many years, the people of Cuba have suffered because of the economic blockade of Cuba. This was done to them, not because Cuba was a threat to the USA, they were not ever a threat to anyone. It was done because Cuba refused to submit to the USA. The imaginary “bogie-man”, the enemy that was created to set up the cold war scenario, was communism, which was thought to be the world’s most insidious form of government. At least, that was the American propaganda. The socialist revolution brought by Fidel Castro and his partners booted out the capitalists that had turned Cuba into the brothel of the rich American tourists. Also, the resources of the rich Island were taken back from the corporations that had been raping Cuba’s natural resources, and, as in all good socialist revolutions, the wealth of Cuba became Cuba’s again.
Of course, those who had become part of the USA takeover, the rich elite, escaped to Miami, and they demonized the revolutionaries, since their capitalist playground had been taken away from them. They joined with the USA government to pour out propaganda, and indoctrinated their children to hate the government of Cuba.
My theory is that a certain type of individual is easily convinced by such propaganda, and will never forget it, never change their mind. This is the unintelligent, but highly ‘patriotic’ person, such as the idiot, Marco Rubio. The following is a quote from him.
“In the eyes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Cuban people are suffering because not enough American tourists visit the country, when the truth is the Cuban people are suffering because they live in a tyrannical dictatorship.”
Rubio also said, “The Cuban people have a standard of living well below that of virtually every nation in the hemisphere.”
So the anti-Cuba mafia of Miami says that the government of Cuba is a dictatorship that is causing them to suffer, is it? In spite of the crippling blockade instituted by the USA, the United Nations Human Development Index ranks Cuba above Mexico, and above most of South America.
Their infant mortality rate is better than that of the USA, and universal health care gives every Cuban a life expectancy equal to that of the U.S.
Rubio has said he will reverse the rapprochement efforts of the Obama administration if he is elected. But he has no chance of being elected. And, actually, in the future, the USA must return the Guantanamo Bay back to the Cubans, and completely end the economic blockade against Cuba. My hope is that Americans will visit the Island and understand that the Cubans were never a threat to the USA. Also their eyes will be opened as to how we have been lied to all these years, and how unrighteous our government has been to oppress the Cuban nation for so many decades. It was done to protect the mafia method of domination. If one country is allowed to escape domination, then the other nations of South America might insist upon being liberated, as well. Well, all of South America is going to be liberated, and surely Cuba will never again allow the USA to dominate them, even after relations are normalized.
The revolution must be preserved and continued, never allowing corporate capitalism to take over.
It is so ridiculous to hear American politicians criticize Cuba’s alleged human rights abuses. And they say, “Political prisoners must be released!”, when so nearby, on the east coast of Cuba, the Americans have been running a torture camp, the Guantanamo gulag. And the government of the USA is so eagerly trying to get at Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange, both heroic whistle-blowers, exposers of America’s war-crimes, and the NSA’s unconstitutional spying on the American people. Dissidents such as John Kiriakou have been jailed and harassed. John’s crime was to reveal the Bush-era torture program.

One of these prisoners at Guantanamo is on the verge of death, but they won’t let him out, as they think it would encourage other prisoners to go on hunger-strikes. The following is an excerpt from an RT News article, and a link to the article:

A prisoner at the US’ Guantanamo Bay prison, who has been on a hunger strike since 2007, may soon starve to death, as prolonged force-feeding has apparently rendered his body incapable of absorbing nutrients. The DoD opposes the ailing man’s release.

Tariq Ba Odah, a Saudi resident of Yemeni descent, was captured in Pakistan and has been held in the Guantanamo facility since 2002. In 2009 he was cleared for release by the Obama administration, but remains in US custody. In 2007 he went on a hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention without charge. After more than eight years without taking food voluntarily, he weighs less than 34 kilograms and may soon die, his lawyer says.
The source added that hardliners in the Pentagon, who consider hunger striking a form of warfare, would not allow Ba Odah’s struggle for release go unchallenged. If his protest succeeded, it could encourage other hunger strikers and give the appearance that the DoD had suffered a substantial defeat, the reasoning goes.
[end of excerpt]
I personally was shocked that a couple of the comments left after the above article, were so negative toward the prisoner. Americans seem to be convinced that all of the detainees at Gitmo are guilty, to some extent. It’s as if their logic goes, “Well, the government has had them locked up, so they CAN’T BE innocent.” I can’t believe people like the Congressman Tom Cotton, who say that he hopes all of the Guantanamo prisoners “rot in hell, but if they can’t go to hell now, they can stay locked up from now on.”
If there were a good case against any of them, they would have been prosecuted by now, and given prison sentences. The fact is that if justice were served, all of them would be due massive remuneration as compensation for the injustices that have been done to them. There should be no place on earth that is a “rights-free zone”. This is a term that has been used to describe the Guantanamo bay prison. Guilty or innocent, they have been victims of torture and cruelty. They have been in prison, in miserable confinement for over a decade. They must be freed.
And the USA owes compensation to Cuba for all of the damage that has been done to them by our blockade, and by our clandestine attempts to overthrow the government.
But I hope the people of these two neighbor nations can find common ground, in our striving against injustice. We can develop friendships and alliances, get to know each other. It will be a truly good thing.