Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 29 April Edition

Posted early, as usual -- and for the usual reasons. And, once Wednesday really does roll around, why not go here for more, and probably better, Word-for-Wednesdays?

Scripture, wrote Paul in his second letter to Timothy, is profitable for teaching, reproof, and correction. So, rather than using scripture as a feedstock for a weekly blog post, it would seem appropriate for me to sit down with scripture and be taught, reproved, and corrected. Lately, I've been much at odds with my day job. Often, I find myself angry before I've been at it for a full hour (reading my email in the morning is often sufficient to accomplish this), and thinking very ill of this person or that one. So, after a little looking in the concordance, I find myself in Colossians 3, verses 22 - 24:
Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not only with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Then, as for my anger, Matthew 5:22:
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."
Yup. That'll do it for me. I am taught. I am reproved. I am corrected. For right now, anyway. Tomorrow, I expect I'll need another dose.

Distinguishing Among the Finest of Shades of "Difference"

So, Sen. Spectre (yes, I know, that's not how he spells it, but it seems so fitting) has switched parties. He makes an unlikely claim. But he's not alone in doing so:
In November, the Democrats won the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time since 1994. "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," said Specter, 79.

Obama told him the Democrats were "thrilled to have you".

Republican national committee chairman Michael Steele said some Republicans would be happy to see him go. "He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his leftwing voting record."
Now, I know I'm frequently critical of President Rainbow Brite, but I'm happy to say that, of the three people quoted here, he's the only one who seems sincere. I'm sure he is thrilled to have another vote in the upper house when party-line time comes 'round. But both the cadaverous Newest Democrat and the Chocolate Republican insist on pretending that there's a significant difference between their respective crime families ... beyond obvious and trivial "differences" such as brand names and logos, that is. They must think the great American people will believe anything.

I regret to say that I think so, too.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oh, That's a Good One!

Haw, haw, haw, haw, haw! Hee, hee, hee. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Oh, my.

(Chuckle, chuckle. Snicker.)

Thanks, guys. I needed a good belly laugh today, and you came through for me. Thanks.

Move over, Tim Geithner. Make room, Ben Bernanke. Let's all add Larry Summers to that list of names which are their own punch lines.

Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry

I dropped my link to IOZ a little while back; he has a lot of interesting things to say, but he also tends to be kind of homo-absolutist, as well as tendentiously, tiresomely, and predictably anti-Christian ... and it's not exactly as if he was ever carrying my link or anything. Still, I look in on him every other day or so, and I recommend the practice to you, too (anybody who works in Big Lebowski dialogue as often as he does can't be all bad).

Anyway, I read this post of his last week and meant to bring it to your attention, but didn't get to it before now. (Be warned of what seem to me to be the gratuitous obscenities.) He was making, I thought, an otherwise-overlooked point about the seamier side of the U.S. Empire:
Listen. As a nation, we arrogate to ourselves the right to send flying robots over any country in the world and murder people, to topple governments, to impose economic blockades on entire nations of millions of people, and the great moral flap is slapping around some prisoners? Now I am not saying that torture is anything but abhorrent, wholly morally repulsive, but ...
I don't think Monsieur is saying here that our recent torture activities should be ignored; I think he's saying that to emphasize the torture so exclusively seems to imply that the other forms of killing and destruction to which our supervisors seem addicted may be ignored completely.

Every form of evil has its own distinct flavor. The torture of prisoners owes its characteristic horror to a set of elements, such as the complete isolation of the victim, and the deliberate, technical, methodical way in which he or she is violated. With the Flying Death Robots, you get the impersonality and total invulnerability of the attackers. With the widespread "conventional" warfare, you get the uncounted bodies and the horror of multiplicity and scale. Equally do they condemn those who practice them; equally do they require repentance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fully Bipartisan

It's amusing to see one caucus of the War Party -- the one currently in power -- try to distance itself from credit for the recent actions of the Empire's torture minions, while at the same time making certain that those minions will continue present torture, and conduct future torture, without fear of any pesky legalities.
President Obama rebuffed calls for a commission to investigate alleged abuses under the Bush administration in fighting terrorism, telling congressional leaders at a White House meeting yesterday that he wants to look forward instead of litigating the past.
Interestingly, Rainbow Brite seems to be implicitly assuming that an investigation would lead to litigation -- which, I guess, is what you'd call the process of serving justice when you want to disparage that process.
In a lengthy exchange with House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Obama appeared to back away from a statement earlier this week that suggested he could support an independent commission to examine possible abuses, according to several attendees who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss the private meeting freely. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, also seeking to clarify the president's position, told reporters that "the president determined the concept didn't seem altogether workable in this case" because of the intense partisan atmosphere built around the issue.

"The last few days might be evidence of why something like this might just become a political back and forth," Gibbs said.

The push for a "truth commission," which grew from the efforts of a few human rights groups, gained fresh momentum with last week's release of the memos from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that provided the basis for the enhanced interrogation techniques, including the practice of simulated drowning known as waterboarding. Obama has said he is opposed to holding CIA interrogators legally accountable, but in a statement last week, he left open the possibility of legal jeopardy for those who formulated the policy.

On Tuesday, Obama explicitly raised the prospect of legal consequences for Bush administration officials who authorized the techniques applied to "high value" terrorism suspects, and said if Congress is intent on investigating the tactics, an independent commission might provide a less partisan forum than a congressional panel.
Ah, but that was Tuesday, and this is Friday, and somebody "has his mind right."
Earlier yesterday, Boehner criticized Pelosi and leading congressional Democrats who are pushing for the panel by noting that they had been briefed on interrogation tactics as far back as September 2002.

"All of this information was downloaded to congressional leaders of both parties with no objections being raised," Boehner told reporters. "Not a word was raised at the time, not one word."

But Pelosi said leaders were never briefed about the actual use of waterboarding, saying top lawmakers were told only about the existence of legal opinions supporting its rationale.

"We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us is that they had . . . the Office of Legal Counsel opinions [and] that they could be used, but not that they would," she said.

[ ... ]

"They don't come in to consult," Pelosi said of administration officials. "They come in to notify. They come in to notify. And you can't -- you can't change what they're doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can't change what they're doing."
So, Speaker Pelosi's telling us that she and her fellow gangsters were told that the Bushies had the ability to torture ... but never, never would she suspect -- oh, my, no! -- that they were actually doing any torturing. Sure, I'm buying that. I'm a credulous fellow, I am.

And then: "You can't change what they're doing." No, there wasn't a thing you could do. You couldn't vote to defund the war. You couldn't refuse retroactive immunity to the gummint and corporate criminals who illegally trashed our telecommunications privacy. You couldn't even make a pass at impeaching George the Slow ... or even Darth Cheney.

C'mon. Of course you could've. You just didn't want to. You're not stupid; you know that what goes around, comes around. Truly, the GOP is the dumber of the two War Party caucuses. It may be that the Democrats are the more evil of the two, by some near-infinitesimal margin; but the GOP is truly, truly the Stupid Party.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 22 April Edition

This week, once again, the Word for Wednesday seems to be happening on Tuesday evening. I work my day job tomorrow, and then I teach afterward, and the scheduled lab is a long one; so I likely won't get back here until Thursday, at best. This week, I'm still in 1 Corinthians, currently chapter 15. I know it's been a couple of weeks now since the church at large celebrated the Resurrection, so maybe a recap of the gospel won't seem timely. On the other hand, when is a bad time to reconsider the center and heart of Christianity? And I have to think that Paul had been over this with the Corinthian believers before ... many times, no doubt. But he saw fit to cover that ground again, and what's a good enough use of an apostle's time is for sure a lot better than a good-enough use of mine ... and yours, too, if I may be so bold. So, verses 1 - 28:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For "He has put all things in subjection under His feet." But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
It might be well here to draw a distinction between "the gospel" -- the good news -- and what we know as the Gospels, meaning the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If the little bit of Biblical scholarship that I've read is accurate, this letter to the church at Corinth either predates all the four Gospels or is at least roughly contemporary with them. We are apt to imagine, based on the order in which the writings appear in the New Testament, those early believers starting out with the "data" in the four Gospels, the initial history of the church in Acts, and then the epistles of Paul and the others as footnotes, or commentary, processing that data. What I'm getting at here is that the early Christian believers at Corinth -- and elsewhere -- became believers based on their acceptance of a central fact (the resurrection of Jesus) and a simple, concise theological interpretation of that fact: atonement and salvation. Perhaps they were, and I am, wrong to accept that fact and to believe that theology; I don't think so, but I can't deny the possibility. Still, it's surprising and wonderful to me that the central, irreducible kernel of the whole thing can be said in so few words and in so little time. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118:22, 23)

(For more Words-for-Wednesday, click here.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thanks For the Laugh, Mister Prez

It seems that the Kwisaatz-Haderach, our new God-Emperor, must be trembling with fear at the righteous wrath of the tea partiers, and is going to head off revolution with reform:
President Obama on Monday plans to gather his Cabinet for the first time as president and challenge it to cut $100 million in the next 90 days, two senior administration officials said.

The officials spoke anonymously because the announcement had yet to come from the president, who returned Sunday from the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

The agencies would have to report how they saved on expenses after 90 days, the officials said.

A senior administration official described the edict as part of Obama's "commitment to go line by line through the budget to cut spending" and "reform the government."

One position in Obama's Cabinet has not been filled yet -- the Senate has not voted on whether to confirm Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services.

As the House of Representatives and Senate return from recess this week, the lawmakers are expected to start reconciling their versions of the fiscal 2010 budget resolution. The president's budget request is $3.67 trillion.
As far as I can tell, Muad'dib must figure that his fellow-citizens -- essentially all of whom were "educated" in the government schools -- see all big numbers as being more or less the same size. (I'm sure he's right to think so, too.) Because you, O Reader, are not among the innumerate, I know I'm not wasting my time in pointing out that one hundred million (1.0E+08) is a vanishingly-small fraction of that proposed budget figure of 3.7E+12. It is, in fact, 2.7E-05, or 0.0027%. Suppose that you, O Middle-Class Household Member, are contemplating how you'll spend $75K this year, and you took the Obama Challenge™ to make an equally-draconian cut in your spending. You would need to forgo the expenditure of a glorious $2.03 ... for the year, that is. That's almost four cents per week!

I don't know about you ... but I certainly don't see how we could ever ask our glorious leaders to tighten the belt any more than that. Man ... that's bare-bones, for sure.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


You know "your" country's worthless when people aren't too ashamed to say stuff like this:
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency, said Sunday that the Obama administration’s recent release of memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques would limit the agency’s ability to pursue terrorists in the future.

The C.I.A. used harsh techniques like waterboarding on detainees from 2002 through 2005, before General Hayden became director. He told a Congressional committee in 2008 that the technique was explicitly dropped from the agency’s authorized methods in 2006 and that he believed its use was likely to have been illegal.

But speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” General Hayden said that the descriptions gave Al Qaeda a tactical advantage by allowing them to prepare for specific practices used by the C.I.A., even if those practices are not in use now.

“It describes the box within which Americans will not go beyond,” General Hayden said. “To me, that’s very useful for our enemies, even if, as a policy matter, this president at this time had decided not to use one, any, or all of those techniques.”
President Rainbow Brite, the darling of the mainstream "antiwar" left, has made it clear that there won't be any criminal charges brought against well-positioned war criminals. And that's a real shame, what with folks like Michael Hayden and Dick Cheney volunteering out loud for seats at the defendants' table. But, with Mr. Obama obviously intending to be as least as much a player of the empire game as was Mr. Bush before him, he's not about to establish any precedents of undue executive accountability before the law that he might someday find personally inconvenient. One player goes to the bench and is replaced by another ... but the game, clearly, goes on.

Now let's hear from a legislative 'Pubbie:
Senator John Ensign, a Republican from Nevada, also criticized the administration on Sunday, saying that the disclosure would limit future options against terrorism.

“The harm is that if we ever return to those policies, one is they can train against them now,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Do we really think that having advanced interrogation techniques is something we don’t want to use if we find Osama bin Laden?”
Oh, yeah -- if our former employee Mr. bin Laden is captured, we're naturally going to want to have plenty of Jack Bauer Fantasy Fun with him before he's lynched. Don't want nuthin' spoilin' that party, nosirreebob!

Finally, there's the question of Supporting the Troops Spooks:
Mr. Ensign and Gen. Hayden also argued that the prospect of prosecution would give C.I.A. agents pause when accepting legal advice about the practices they use.

“The basic foundation of the legitimacy of the agency’s action has shifted from some durability of law to a product of the American political process,” he said. “That puts agency officers in a horrible position.”
Can't have those tax-feeders pausing when being told that torture is legal, and no harm can come to them, and that nothing El Presidente calls "legal" can possibly be illegal. Can't have them hesitating out of fear that the classic Nuremberg defense ("ve vass schusst followink ohr-duhs!") might not fly. Or ... could we? Sure we could. We won't, but we could.

Now, equal time for the Democrats:
Democrats on Sunday played down the importance of the release of the documents, saying that most of the information was already public. David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, said there was “no legal rationale for keeping them classified.”

Mr. Axelrod said that the president’s ban on enhanced interrogation techniques was more important that the release of the C.I.A.’s memos.

“We’re moving past all of that,” Mr. Axelrod said on “Face the Nation.” “And to revisit it again and again and again isn’t, in the president’s view, in the country’s interest.”
Yeah, move on, folks, move on -- nothing to see here. Purest crap. There would, in fact, be nothing better for the great 'Murkin People than to "revisit it again and again and again." Clearly, it's not in the interest of today's war criminal to have a lot of war-crimes discussions that might reverberate as much as four years from now -- after all, Rainbow Brite himself has said that he might be a one-term president if he can't reinvigorate the shell game that is the hollow American "economy," and he's certainly smart enough to be able to make a reasonable estimate of his chances of getting that done.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Apologize For Not Voting

Gee, I guess I shoulda voted:
McCains lend a hand to gay Republican group

From CNN's Sarah Parker

CNN) – Log Cabin Republicans are getting some support from the McCain family.

Cindy and Meghan McCain will make an appearance at the gay rights organization's four day convention in Washington, which kicks off Thursday night.

"Of all the causes I believe in and speak publicly about, this is one of the ones closest to my heart," Meghan McCain, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, wrote in the Daily Beast this week. "If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric."
Yep, I have to admit it: if I'd just held my nose and voted for the elephant one more time, maybe that crypto-Mooslim Negro commie Obama wouldn't have won. Rats. I let my country down again.

Don't you be like me. You should vote, as often as possible. Be a full participant in our glorious Two-Party System™, in which voting changes things.

Purely-Local Note

Anybody notice this crap splashed all over the front page of our hard-hitting journalistic watchdog of a morning paper city gooberment booster club newsletter?

(Not to suggest that the moribund afternoon fishwrap is even slightly better -- it's not. Just later, that's all, so I haven't seen it yet.)

Rah, rah. And, uh, rah.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Whipping the New Help Into Shape

You have to feel sorry for the Israelis in their dealings with the American goyim. Because the American political system has to maintain the illusion that the serfs' votes actually change things and make a difference, there's a big turnover every four to eight years in the American servant corps. While the basic policy -- Israel uber alles -- is of course perennial, the names and faces are different, and the newbies almost always need a little taste of the whip so they'll know their place and say the right things. It must get tiresome. No sooner do you get them properly trained, than they disappear in favor of a new crop, and you have to start all over again. George the Slow's minions have vanished, and the Rainbow Brite troops have taken their places:
U.S. envoy George Mitchell met in Jerusalem today with top Israeli officials to push for what at the moment appears unlikely: substantive talks between a divided Palestinian leadership and the new right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mitchell's diplomatic trip comes amid a troubling atmosphere highlighted by the Netanyahu government's refusal to commit to a Palestinian state and growing animosity between Egypt and the radical Lebanese group Hezbollah, which Cairo alleges has dispatched militants into Egypt to stage attacks near the Gaza border and at tourist sites in the Sinai.

Mitchell told reporters following a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that "U.S. policy favors, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel."

Lieberman said new ideas were needed on the Palestinian question. He characterized the talk with Mitchell as "a great opportunity to exchange some ideas, and we spoke about really close cooperation."

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said: "The preferable course of diplomatic action at this time is two economies for two peoples and not two states for two peoples. The American emissary also knows that forcing the region into virtual diplomatic discourse will only breed the opposite results."
You see the problem. It isn't that American money won't continue to flow into Izzy coffers: it will. Ditto weapons systems, munitions, etc. But Mitchell doesn't quite have his mind right yet. He still sounds (a little bit) like someone who might backsass the bosses. He may need a few days in the box. He may need a few cycles of digging out that big hole and then filling it back in.

Of course, while servants need to mind their manners, the bosses can relax and say what they want:
The unease the Obama administration and the Arab world have for Netanyahu's government is personified by Lieberman. Israel supports peace talks with the Palestinians, but Lieberman has said his country is not bound by the U.S.-backed plan for Palestinian statehood that was reached in Annapolis in 2007. This stance and a recent comment suggesting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key negotiator in the peace process, should "go to hell" have made Lieberman unwelcome in Cairo.

"We will work with any proposal by the Israeli government but not through the Israeli foreign minister," Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, told Russian TV in a story picked up Wednesday by Israel's Channel 2.

Gheit said that Lieberman would not be allowed to travel to Egypt, adding, "A person should think about the consequences of the signals he sends from his brain to his tongue."
Of course, it doesn't much matter what some Arab wog named Ahmed Aboul Gheit says. I mean, it's not like Capitol Hill is a wholly-owned subsidiary of anything called the American Egyptian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC). It shouldn't surprise us, though, when we find ourselves sharing the international pariah status that our Izzy masters have earned for themselves. It will surprise us, I'm sure ... but it shouldn't.

Finally: isn't it ironic when the truth occasionally blurts itself out, despite the best intentions of the speaker?
The issue of Iran and its nuclear program was also a topic Thursday. After Mitchell met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, the president said he emphasized dialogue on the issue.

"It is our common interest that dialogue with Iran will expose if there is an opportunity with Iran or is it all a hoax," Peres said. "We all want a world that is clean of nuclear bombs, but the problem is that those holding the bombs are religious fanatics, extremists, that do not cringe from all methods of killing."
'Scuse me, there, Boss Peres, but the only nuclear-armed Middle Eastern entity (west of Pakistan, at least) is ... who? Yes, that's what I thought: the serial sodomizers of Gaza and Lebanon. Those holding the bombs are religious fanatics, extremists, that do not cringe from all methods of killing. Hmmmmm. If the shoe fits, dude ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Word for Wednesday: 15 April Edition

Back to 1 Corinthians, where I've been reading (chapter 10, verses 23 to the end):
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience' sake: for the earth is the Lord's and all that it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience' sake. But if anyone should say to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.
One of the easier traps we can fall into, I think, is to ignore the context of passages such as this one and overextend them out of context to make them seem to say things that they don't really say. On the other hand, there is usually a more general principle that is particularized in such passages, that can and should be considered more generally. Here I think the general principle is the relative unimportance of the material basis of many (or most? or all?) scruples, relative to the transcendent importance of our motivations for doing something or avoiding it, and the even greater importance of the effect of our actions or abstentions on the people around us: our fellow fully-permanent images of the Living God. Every one of these, as C. S. Lewis wrote, is destined to become eternally either a surpassing wonder or a surpassing horror: ultimately, there are no "ordinary people," and what we do with / to / for / about every person we encounter is more or less our main business. At least, that's how it reads to me.

As always: more Words for Wednesdays here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Got Your Rally Cap On?

Yes? Well, by all means, take the stupid-looking thing off and put your thinking cap on instead. Mr. Dowd will help you.

Watch my left ... watch my left ... watch my left ...

When I was just a young optical engineer, 'way back when, that's what my ne'er-do-well playmates would say just before throwing a right. Misdirection: a common (and effective) tactic often used by juvenile miscreants. And, speaking of juvenile miscreants, I have to wonder what our supervisors are actually getting ready to do when I see that #3 on the "top stories" list at Google News at the moment involves the Rainbow Brite family dog. All I can think is: what's it going to be this time? A new and different name for the Af-Pak surge? More idiot-clever black ops in Iran? A Great Patriotic War on the Somali Pirates? Or maybe just another Big Bankster Bonus?

Whatever it is, I bet it ain't good.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Word for Wednesday: 8 April 2009 Edition

(This is actually posted Tuesday night; I certainly won't have the opportunity in the morning.)

Maundy Thursday is coming up and is on my mind today; it's observed in my church with footwashing and communion, combined in the Love Feast. From John (13:3-17):
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter." Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."

And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you should also do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is the one who is sent greater than the one who sends him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."
At the center of Christianity, God turns the order of this world upside-down. The greatest lowers himself to act as the humble servant of the least. The worthiest accepts death in the place of the most worthless. A real leader is -- first, last, and always -- a servant. "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first" (Matthew 19:30). No one has to get what he or she deserves and has earned. Amen and amen.

Update: more Words for Wednesday can be seen at and through Yeah, Right.

First, Do No Harm

And the hits just keep on comin':
MIAMI (Reuters) - Health workers violated medical ethics when they helped interrogate terrorism suspects who were tortured at secret CIA prisons overseas, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The medical workers, thought to be doctors and psychologists, monitored prisoners while they were mistreated at CIA prisons and advised interrogators whether to continue, adjust or halt the abuse, the ICRC said in a report based on interviews with 14 prisoners in 2007.

One prisoner alleged that medical personnel monitored his blood oxygen levels while he was subjected to waterboarding, a simulated drowning designed to induce panic and widely considered to be torture, the ICRC said.

Other prisoners said that as they stood shackled with their arms chained above their heads, a doctor regularly measured the swelling in their legs and signaled when they should be allowed to sit down.

The ICRC interviewed 14 men who had been held in secret CIA prisons overseas before being sent to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006.


He first published excerpts last month, including a portion in which the ICRC concluded the al Qaeda captives' treatment in the CIA prisons "constituted torture" and violated international law.

The report alleges collars were placed around some prisoners' necks and used to slam their heads against the walls, and that they were forced to stand with their arms shackled above them for two or three days and left to urinate or defecate on themselves.

The prisoners told the ICRC they were beaten and kicked, left naked for long periods, subjected to sleep deprivation, loud music, cold temperatures, rape threats and forced shaving. Some said they were denied solid food unless they cooperated with interrogators and one said he was confined in a crouching position in a box too short to stand in.
There was a time when doctors' involvement in gooberment torture would have seemed shocking. But, you know, we got used to the idea that doctors should hire out to kill inconvenient babies, and we'll get used to this, too, without much trouble; I'm sure that many of my countrymen are already on board. Makes me wonder what will be ceasing to shock us twenty years from now. Involuntary euthanasia? Post-natal abortion? ("Plan C," will we call that last thing?) Ah, the limitless future beckons.

Spring Campout: Full Report

The Spring 2009 Edition was most enjoyable. Oh, there was a little cloud to go with the silver lining: my venerable tent suffered shock-cord failures in two of its three poles which rendered it very difficult to set up and take down, and also betrayed me with some leaking in Thursday night's torrential rains. I've been thinking about a new one for several years now, so I expect my current model has seen its last campout.

On the whole, however, it was all good. I was forced to interrupt the Friday night business meeting when some Camping Association members seemed to be going rules-mad and legislation-crazy; when things began to look dangerous, I tossed my nearly-empty spray-cheese can into the fire, resulting in a harmless but loud explosion a few seconds later, after which I was able to regain the floor and explain to one and all that camping is naturally a near-anarchic activity and should must stay that way. All three falls on the Three Falls Trail were in full operation, no doubt due to the snowy winter and wet spring that we've had. The Wabash County conservation officer stopped by and quizzed us, probably suspecting that we might be cooking crank; but he quickly recognized us for what we were: a gaggle of engineers who had slipped the leash for a day or two. Every night, I went to sleep to the sound of distant freight trains, and woke in the small hours of the morning to the sound of distant coyotes, and also the need to use my detergent-bottle tent urinal ("don't leave home without it!"). Sunday morning, I awoke to the sound of nearby birdsong of a sort that I don't remember ever hearing before, and that was excellent.

And that's the way it was.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No More 'Til Sunday (at Least)

I'm taking a few days off and going camping. Yes, it's time for the Men's Camping Association Spring Campout ("DeliveranceFest 2009: Squeal Like a Pig"). Assuming I survive, I'll make a full report when I get back.

The Word for Wednesday: 1 April 2009 Edition

At the encouragement of my friend akaGaGa, I thought I'd make an attempt to post regularly on Wednesdays -- not that I'm doing so well at posting regularly on any days, of course -- with a passage from the Bible as the topic. As it happens, my reading this week has been in 1 Corinthians, and it furnishes forth something appropriate to April Fool's Day. From the first chapter, commencing at verse 18:
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.For indeed the Jews ask for signs, and the Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."
From this, a couple of things occur to me. First is that, as natural people, we don't see things as they really are. That which seems like wisdom to us is really foolish at best, and evil, too, more likely than not. I think that before we can truly see reality, we'll have to become fully real ourselves: a process which begins and, we can hope, progresses somewhat in this life, but can only become complete when we enter into the real life of (and in, and with) Jesus. The other thought that comes to me is that I can be assured that it's when I think I'm at my most clever ... when I really know I'm doing it right, and doing it smart ... that I can be sure I'm really at my very silliest. I hope God has a low sense of humor; if so, while I'm clearly not impressing Him, maybe I'm giving Him a good laugh, anyway.