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Posts Tagged ‘RELIGION’

FIGHTING FASCISM: A VETERAN SPEAKS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 25, 2019 at 12:08 am

“We must not make the error of thinking that all those who eat the bread of dictatorship are evil from the first, but they must necessarily become evil….One of the vital lessons we must learn from the German disaster is the ease with which a people can be sucked down into the morass of inaction.”

Thus warns Hans Bernd Gisevius—one of the few survivors of the July 20, 1944 bomb attempt on Adolf Hitler.

A covert opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zurich between the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and German resistance forces in Germany. 

In 1946, he published his autobiography, To the Bitter End, sharply indicting the Reich and its leaders—many of whom Gisevius had known personally. He also condemned the German people, charging that they pretended ignorance of the atrocities being committed.

Hans Bernd Gisevius at Nuremberg

In his introduction, Gisevius notes: “This book is not intended as a history of the Third Reich. The author has selected a few prominent incidents out of the confusion of contemporaneous events and has attempted to use these as points through which to trace the broad curves of the historical process.”

Almost 75 years after the fall of the Third Reich, Gisevius offers invaluable insights into America’s own foray into Fascistic government under President Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump

Even more important, he offers concrete suggestions for successfully resisting a Fascist regime.

Ability to Retain Support:  “We have learned that in the political realm abuses are all ultimately punished. But it takes extraordinarily long for the breach to become apparent. As long as dictatorships can produce ‘successes’ and conceal abuses they remain armored against opposition. The masses will not desert them.” 

Attractiveness of Simplicity: “A favorite name for Hitler was ‘the great simplifier.’ This was apt; in spite of the verbosity and clumsiness of his language, he really possessed an astonishing flair for summarizing complicated matters into brief formulas.” 

Corruption of Spirituality: “The Nazis wanted to lock Christianity into a ghetto, and many Christians believed it was their duty to accept this isolation gladly. [Pastor Martin] Niemoeller knew that it must not be accepted.”

Inefficiency a Hallmark of Dictatorships: “Incredible as it sounds, even the chief of the Wehrmacht was not aware of all the contracts that had been let. He obtained virtually no information from the air force or the navy, and the army provided him with only fragmentary information….

“Hitler approved of this procedure. He did not want any coordinating authority to be able to survey the total situation. He preferred conflicts and rivalries because he thought they would speed the tempo of rearmament.”

Responsibility of the Military: “Undoubtedly a small group of generals were at heart earnestly troubled. These men were conscious of a tremendous responsibility: they felt that no command from above, however unequivocal, could erase their responsibility. In fact there was only a minute group of army officers who were, ‘in principle,’ co-conspirators to the Nazi Terror. Most of the officer corps remained ‘neutral,’ both inwardly and outwardly.

“They were part of that irresponsible group of human beings who always seek a secure life without cares and are allured by the prospect of a career. By their excess of passivity our generals, willy-nilly, consciously or unconsciously, became profiteering participants in the Nazi Revolution.”

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Soldiers saluting Adolf Hitler

The Danger of Accommodating Evil: “Let…individuals fall prey to over-cleverness, opportunism or cowardice and they are irrevokably lost. Passive acceptance, intellectual subservience, or, in religious terms, failure to pray against the evil, may constitute a kind of silent support for authoritarian rule.”

Corruptions of Power: “Within a few weeks, the Party leaders and sub-leaders found themselves in positions of power beyond their wildest dreams….They had no professional training. They knew nothing about law. They did not trust the professional officialdom who worked under them. What could they do but extemporize? They simply dictated, in the firm conviction that their subjects would obey.”

Collective Responsibility: “Once that system [of authoritarian rule] has been installed….there is only one course remaining to each individual and to all individuals collectively: To fight the terrorists with the same courage and tenacity, with the same willingness to take risks, that they employ in wartime under ‘orders’ when they fight the ‘enemy.'” 

* * * * * 

In the classic 1969 Western, The Wild Bunch, there’s a scene where Pike Bishop, the leader of the outlaw gang, and his close friend, Dutch Engstrom, face off.

They’re being chased by a posse led by Deke Thornton, a former gang member—who’s threatened with prison if he doesn’t kill them all. 

“Damn that Deke Thornton to Hell!” shouts Engstrom. 

“What would you do in his place?” replies Bishop. “He gave his word!”

“He gave his word to a railroad!”

“It’s his word!”

“That ain’t what counts,” says Engstrom. “It’s who you give it to!”   

“It’s who you give it to.” Those words must constantly be remembered when making a commitment. The person/cause you serve must be worthy of that service.

Otherwise, such virtues as loyalty and courage become meaningless perversions in service to evil.

AMERICA’S “TRUMAN SOLUTION” FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

The headline in the February 6, 2016 edition of The World Post read: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

Then came the waterworks:

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead is now more than 310,000.

And who does the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter?  

The West, of course:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

Got that? It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another?

Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.  

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.”  And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

On April 23, 2016, the United Nations estimated that 400,000 Syrians had died in the war.

There is, however, an optimistic way to view this conflict:

  • Put another way: 400,000 potential or actual Islamic terrorists will never pose a threat to the United States or Western Europe.
  • The United States cannot be held in any way responsible for it. 

In fact, it’s in America’s best interests that this conflict last as long as possible and spread as widely as possible throughout the Islamic community. 

Here are four reasons why:

First: In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are waging war on each other.  

Yes, it’s Hizbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).  

Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.  

Flag of Hizbollah

Al Qaeda—which gave us 9/11—is comprised of Sunni Muslims. It considers Shiites as heretics and seeks their extermination. It has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Suffis and other non-Sunnis. And despite the death of its creator, Osama bin Laden, in 2011, it still seeks to destroy the United States.

Flag of Al Qaeda

Second: Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.  

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For many years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus for Illich Ramirez Sanchez—the notorious international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal.  

Illich Ramirez Sanches “Carlos the Jackal”

Third: China and Russia are supporting the Assad dictatorship—and the brutalities it commits against its own citizens.  

This reflects badly on them—not the United States. And any move by the United States to directly attack the Assad regime could ignite an all-out war with Russia and/or China.  

What happens if Russian and American forces start trading salvos? Or if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an attack on America’s ally, Israel, in return for America’s attack on Russia’s ally, Syria?  

It was exactly that scenario—Great Powers going to war over conflicts between their small-state allies—that triggered World War I. 

Fourth: While Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources—and incentive—to attack the United States.

Every dead Hizbollah and Al-Qaeda and ISIS member makes the United States that much safer. So does the death of every sympathizer of Hizbollah, Al-Qaeda and ISIS.  

The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.  

When Al-Qaeda blows up civilians in Beirut, their relatives will urge Hizbollah to take brutal revenge. And Hizbollah will do so. Similarly, when Hizbollah does, those who support Al-Qaeda will demand even more brutal reprisals against Hizbollah.  

Al-Qaeda terrorists–now taking aim at Hezbollah terrorists

No American could instill such hatred in Al-Qaeda for Hizbollah—or vice versa. This is entirely a war of religious and sectarian hatred.  

In fact, this conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.  

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry S. Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis—and vice versa.”

That should be America’s position whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

USING RELIGION TO EXCUSE GUN VIOLENCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2018 at 12:07 am

Barack Obama was right.

As a 2008 Presidential candidate, he famously (or infamously) said about small-town Right-wing voters across the Midwest:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.

“And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

At the time that Obama made that remark, he was seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for President.

His opponents—both Democratic and Republican—quickly attacked him as elitist and anti-Second Amendment.

Democratic New York United States Senator Hillary Clinton—his chief rival for the nomination—said: “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America. His remarks are elitist and out of touch.” 

Obama survived the firestorm and won the Democratic nomination—and the Presidency.

Since then, the truth of his widely-criticized remarks has been repeatedly proven by his Republican adversaries.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

At 21, Roof was unemployed, dividing his time between playing video games and taking drugs.

Dylann Roof

The signs of Roof’s malignant racism were evident long before he turned mass murderer:

  • He had posed for a photo sitting on the hood of his parents’ car—whose license plate bore a Confederate flag.
  • He had posed for pictures wearing a jacket sporting the white supremacist flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
  • He told a friend that he hoped “to start a civil war” between the black and white races.
  • Roof reportedly told friends and neighbors of his plans to kill people.
  • In the midst of his massacre of unarmed worshipers, he told one of his victims: “You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country.” Then Roof shot him.

The evidence makes clear that Roof’s slaughter was racially motivated. Yet no 2016 Republican Presidential candidate dared acknowledge it:

  • Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida:  “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes.”
  • Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania: “You talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before.  It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”
  • Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana: “I don’t think we’ll ever know what was going on in his mind.”

On October 27, 2018, another worship-services slaughter occurred. The target was the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Eleven people died in a hail of bullets fired by anti-Semetic Robert Bowers, 46.

Two days later, on October 29, White House Counselor Kelleyanne Conway offered a unique reason for the massacre:

“The anti-religiosity in this country that is somehow in vogue and funny to make fun of anybody of faith, to constantly be making fun of people that express religion—the late-night comedians, the unfunny people on TV shows—it’s always anti-religious.

“These people were gunned down in their place of worship, as were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they were there because they’re people of faith, and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together. This is no time to be driving God out of the public square.” 

No Republican in 2015 dared to blame the shooting on Right-wing hatred and/or ready access to high-powered firearms by the mentally disturbed. And, three years later, the situation remained the same.

Someone who has dared to tell the truth about guns and the carnage inflict is Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department.

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Chief Edward Flynn

On the August 4, 2015 edition of The PBS Newshour, Flynn said: Certainly, one of the things we have seen is a dramatic increase in the use of firearms, particularly semiautomatic pistols, in our violent deaths.

We have seen that our shootings are up significantly, our homicides are up dramatically. Over 85% of our homicides are committed with firearms, and, of those, over 85% are committed with semiautomatic pistols.

Another truth-teller is Colonel Sam Dotson, Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  Interviewed on the same Newshour program, he said: 

I’m seeing exactly the same thing that they’re seeing in Milwaukee, the availability of guns. I’m seeing exactly the same thing, high-capacity magazines, a willingness to use the guns, and a judiciary that sometimes doesn’t follow through on the prosecution. 

Police Chiefs Edward Flynn and Samuel Dotson bluntly stated the devastating results of unrestricted access to high-powered firearms. And they offered a concrete solution: Drastically restrict that access.

The “solution” offered by Kelleyanne Conway comes down to: “America needs to pray.” It’s a “solution” that appeases the religious Right—and doesn’t infuriate the National Rifle Association.

And it won’t prevent a single murder.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2018 at 12:10 am

On February 18, 2012, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the “phony theology” of President Barack Obama.

“It’s not about you,” Santorum told supporters of the Right-wing Tea Party in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs.

“It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.”

What would a Bible-based agenda mean for the country?

The death penalty would be vastly expanded to cover such “crimes” as:

  • Sabbath-breaking: Because the Lord considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.  (Exodus 31:12-15)
  • Adultery:  If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
  • Fornication: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.  (Leviticus 21:9)
  • Nonbelievers: They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
  • Homosexuality:  If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20-13)

A modern-day stoning–in Somalia

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution—which forbids slavery—would be repealed. 

The Bible not only permits slavery but lays out rules for its practice—such as:

  • When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. (Exodus 21-7)
  • However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. (Leviticus 25:44-45)
  • Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (1 Peter 2:18)

Almost all scientific progress would be discarded, since most of its findings conflict with the Bible:

  • One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4). 
  • This claim is totally contradicted by what astronomers now know about the eventual fate of the Earth: In about 7.6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuels. This will vastly increase its heat and gravitational pull, and at least Mercury, Earth and Venus will be vaporized.

The sun

  • The Bible speaks of a world where physical laws are often violated by the will of God.  Thus, Jesus turns water into wine and raises Lazarus from the dead; Jonah lives inside a fish for three days; Noah dies at 950 years; and demons are exorcised.
  • In Biblical times, mental illness was seen as a manifestation of demonic possession.  Today we know that mental illness has nothing to do with evil spirits.

Laws guaranteeing equal rights for women would be repealed:

  • I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 12:10)
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
  • A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. (1 Timothy 2:11)
  • But if…and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)

Military conflicts would be fought without regard to the Geneva Convention–as the Israelites did:

  • “You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the Lord. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens.  With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers.”  (Jeremiah 51:20-23)

Depiction of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites

  • Samuel said to Saul, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15, 1-3) 

* * * * *

Yes, a nation governed by “a theology based on the Bible” would be one far different from the United States we know today.

Since a number of Old Testament practices might lend themselves to easy abuse, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2018 at 12:03 am

Bernardo Gui was the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s). 

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

Here’s how such an interrogation might go:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.”

Interrogator: You are accused as a heretic, and that you believe and teach otherwise than Holy Church believes.

Accused Heretic: (Raising his eyes to heaven, with an air of the greatest faith) Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent of this, and that I never held any faith other than that of true Christianity.

Interrogator: You call your faith Christian, for you consider ours as false and heretical. But I ask whether you have ever believed as true another faith than that which the Roman Church holds to be true?

Accused Heretic: I believe the true faith which the Roman Church believes, and which you openly preach to us.

Interrogator: Perhaps you have some of your sect at Rome whom you call the Roman Church. I, when I preach, say many things, some of which are common to us both, as that God liveth, and you believe some of what I preach. Nevertheless you may be a heretic in not believing other matters which are to be believed.

Accused Heretic: I believe all things that a Christian should believe.

Interrogator: I know your tricks….But we waste time in this fencing. Say simply, Do you believe in one God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Accused Heretic: I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe in Christ born of the Virgin, suffered, risen, and ascended to heaven?

Accused Heretic: (Briskly) I believe.

Interrogator: Do you believe the bread and wine in the mass performed by the priests to be changed into the body and blood of Christ by divine virtue?

Accused Heretic: Ought I not to believe this?

Interrogator: I don’t ask if you ought to believe, but if you do believe.

Accused Heretic: I believe whatever you and other good doctors order me to believe.

Inquisitor: Those good doctors are the masters of your sect; if I accord with them you believe with me; if not, not.

Accused Heretic: I willingly believe with you if you teach what is good to me.

Inquisitor: You consider it good to you if I teach what your other masters teach. Say, then, do you believe the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ to be in the altar?

Accused Heretic: (Promptly) I believe that a body is there, and that all bodies are of our Lord.

Interrogator: I ask whether the body there is of the Lord who was born of the Virgin, hung on the cross, arose from the dead, ascended, etc.

Accused Heretic: And you, sir, do you not believe it?

Interrogator: I believe it wholly.

Accused Heretic: I believe likewise.

Men like Bernard Gui—and Franklin Graham—do not seek a golden future. They crave to return to a “golden” past—which includes the power Christians once held to forcibly impose their religious beliefs on others.

Among those slated for forced conversions by the Religious Right:

  • Atheists
  • Jews
  • Women
  • Homosexuals
  • Lesbians
  • Non-Christians
  • Liberals

To gain absolute secular power over the lives of their fellow Americans, the Religious Right will support any candidate, no matter how morally despicable. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, evangelicals—and their leaders such as Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.—fervently supported Donald Trump, despite:

  • His being twice divorced;
  • His multiple affairs (including one with porn star Stormy Daniels);
  • His documented ties to Russian oligarchs and Mafia chieftains;
  • His viciousness, greed, lying and egomania.

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Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Liberty University

And they continue to fervently support him.

They expect Trump to sponsor legislation that will—-by force of law—make their brand of Christianity supreme above all other religions. 

Legislation such as The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This was signed into law on March 26, 2015, by Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana.

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to violate their religious beliefs.

Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

Thus, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons now has the legal right to refuse to do so.

And a hospital can legally turn away a gay patient if it wants to.

Islamic countries are notorious for their persecution of non-Muslims. Now the Religious Right wants to impose its own version of sharia law on American citizens.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2018 at 12:23 am

American Right-wing elements relentlessly claimed that President Barack Obama was waging “a war on religion.”

GOP candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney intended to make this a major theme of their respective campaigns for President.

Obama supported a woman’s right

  • to obtain abortion—including in cases of rape and incest;
  • to obtain birth control; and
  • to obtain amniocentesis (pre-natal testing).

By promoting women’s rights, Obama was “waging a war against religion”—according to American fascists.”

Since access to such medical procedures as birth control and pre-natal testing has long been entirely legal, what’s all the fuss about?

It’s simple: The Right is not waging a “war for religious liberty.”

It’s waging a bitter struggle to establish a government that uses force or the threat of it to impose reactionary religious beliefs on religionists who do not share such religious beliefs.

And on atheists or agnostics, who share none at all.

These Rightists and their theocratic allies have less in common with Jesus Christ than with Tomas de Torquemada (1420 – 1498), the infamous Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.

Christ never ordered the torture or death of anyone. Torquemada—claiming to act in “defense” of the Roman Catholic Church—presided over the deaths of at least 2,000 “heretics.”

Tomas de Torquemada

Nor did these unfortunate victims of religious fanaticism meet their death quickly or painlessly. They died by perhaps the cruelest means possible—by being burned alive at the stake.

Torquemada didn’t hesitate to pronounce someone a heretic. He “knew” who such people were. They were Jews, Muslims, atheists. They were “lapsed Catholics” who, in his view, failed to show fervent devotion to the religious authorities—like himself—who tyrannically ruled their lives.

For such people, Torquemada believed, the only road to salvation lay in being “cleansed” of their sins. And nothing burns away impurities like fire.

But before the fire-stakes came the fire-mindset: The arrogance of “knowing” who qualified as “saved” and who would be forever “damned.”

Unless, of course, his or her soul had been “purified” by fire.

“Heretic” burned at the stake

Fundamentalist Christians can no longer sentence “heretics” to the stake.

But the mindset that ruled the Spanish Inquisition has not disappeared. It has been vividly displayed by no less a religious authority than Franklin Graham, son of America’s most famous preacher, Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham

Appearing on the MSNBC program, “Morning Joe,” on February 21, 2012, Graham was asked if he thought that Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney qualified as Christians.

On Obama: “Islam sees him as a son of Islam… I can’t say categorically that [Obama is not Muslim] because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

On Santorum: “I think so. His values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it… I think he’s a man of faith.”

On Gingrich: “I think Newt Gingrich is a Christian, at least he told me he is.”

On Romney: “Most Christians would not recognize Mormons as part of the Christian faith. They believe in Jesus Christ. They have a lot of other things they believe in too, that we don’t accept, theologically.”

Thus, Graham pronounced as “saved” a notorious multiple-adulterer like Gingrich. He also gave a pass to Santorum, who married a woman who had lived “in sin” with an abortionist for six years.

But he unhesitatingly damned a longtime churchgoer like Obama or a devout Mormon like Romney (whose faith, most evangelicals like Graham believe, is actually a non-Christian cult).

Six years later, in 2018, Graham defended President Donald Trump, a notorious womanizer and multiple-adulterer, against charges that, in 2006, he had slept with porn star Stormy Daniels.  

“I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago. He is not President Perfect.”

This differs greatly from his position on President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky: “If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

It’s easy to imagine Graham transported to the French city of Toulouse in the 14th century. And to imagine him wearing the robes of Bernardo Gui, the chief inquisitor of the Dominican Order during the Medieval Inquisition (1184 – 1230s).

Bernardo Gui

Gui closely studied the best methods for interrogating “heretics.” He set forth his findings in his most important and famous work, Practica Inquisitionis Heretice Pravitatis. or “Conduct of the Inquisition into Heretical Wickedness.”

In this, he offered a vivid example of how such an interrogation might go. The following is taken from that manual:

When a heretic is first brought up for examination, he assumes a confident air, as though secure in his innocence. I ask him why he has been brought before me. He replies, smiling and courteous, “Sir, I would be glad to learn the cause from you.” 

This is not a dialogue between equals. The Inquisitor literally holds the power of life or agonizing death over the man or woman he is interrogating.

THE AMERICAN AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 24, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist in Saudi Arabia, decided to celebrate the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in a truly unique way.

Hamza Kashgar

In early February, 2012, he posted on Twitter a series of mock conversations between himself and Muhammad:

“On your birthday, I will say that I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me, and that I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.”

“On your birthday, I find you wherever I turn. I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

“On your birthday, I shall not bow to you. I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

“No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice.”

The tweets sparked some 30,000 infuriated responses. Many Islamic clerics demanded that he face execution for blasphemy.

Kashgari posted an apology tweet: “I deleted my previous tweets because…I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand.”

Soon afterward, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, then King of Saudi Arabia, ordered his arrest.

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Saudi King King Abdullah 

Kashgari fled to Malaysia, another majority-Muslim country. He was quickly arrested by police as he passed through Kuala Lumpur international airport. Three days later, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups feared that he would be executed for blasphemy, a capitol offense in Saudi Arabia.

After nearly two years in prison, Kashgari was freed on October 29, 2013. Kashgari used Twitter to inform his supporters of his release.

Outrageous? By Western standards, absolutely.

Clearly there is no tolerence in Saudi Arabia for the freedoms of thought and expression that Americans take for granted.

Meanwhile, Right-wing American ayatollahs are working overtime to create just that sort of society—where theocratic despotism rules the most intimate aspects of our lives.

One of these is the former GOP Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. In early January, 2012, he said that states should have the right to outlaw birth control without the interference of the Supreme Court.

Rick Santorum

In an interview with ABC News, Santorum said he opposed the Supreme Court’s ruling that made birth control legal:

“The state has a right to do that [ban contraception]. I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a Constitutional right. The state has the right to pass whatever statutes they have.

“That’s the thing I have said about the activism of the Supreme Court—they are creating rights, and it should be left up to the people to decide.”

In the landmark 1965 decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law that made it a crime to sell contraceptives to married couples. The Constitution, ruled the Justices, protected a right to privacy.

Two years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended Griswold by striking down a law banning the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples.

Santorum has left no doubt as to where he stands on contraception. On October 19, 2011, he said:

“One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘“Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also…procreative.

“That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act….And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure.”

“How things are supposed to be”—according to Right-wing fanatics like Santorum and the evangelicals who support them.

Like the Saudi religious religious zealots who demand the death of a “blasphemer,” they demand that their religious views should govern everyone. That means Jews, Catholics, Islamics, atheists and agnostics.

American Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists fervently agree on the following:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

The important difference—for Americans who value their freedom—is this:

The United States has a Supreme Court that can—and does—overturn laws that threaten civil liberties. Laws that GOP Presidential candidates clearly want to revive and force on those who don’t share their peculiar religious views.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The same holds true—in a democracy—for candidates who seek dictatorial power over their fellow citizens. Don’t give them your consent.

WHEN BITTER HUMOR BECOMES TERRORISM REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 10, 2018 at 2:02 am

There is a famous joke about racial profiling that’s long made the rounds of the Internet. It appears in the guise of a “history test,” and offers such multiple-choice questions as:

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

  • Olga Korbut
  • Sitting Bull
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

  • Lost Norwegians
  • Elvis
  • A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

  • John Dillinger
  • The King of Sweden
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

  • A pizza delivery boy
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked. Two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Center; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

  • Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
  • The Supreme Court of Florida
  • Mr. Bean
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

* * * * *

It’s well to remember the bitter truth behind this joke, especially in light of comments by Arthur M. Cummings, the FBI’s executive assistant director for national security. 

Cummings has no use for such Politically Correct terms as “man-caused disasters” in referring to terrorism.  Nor does he shrink from terms such as “jihadists” or “Islamists.”

“Of course Islamists dominate the terrorism of today,” he says bluntly. “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here [Washington, D.C.]. And he said ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’ 

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom are seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings.  “It’s not the Irish.  It’s not the French.  It’s not the Catholics.  It’s not the Protestants.  It’s the Muslims.”

One man who did foresee the present conflicts with stunning clarity—and had the courage to say what has since become Politically Incorrect—was Samuel P. Huntington.

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Samuel P. Huntington

A political scientist, Huntington taught government at Harvard University (1950-1959, then at Columbia University (1959-1962). He returned to Harvard in 1963, and remained there until his death in 2008.

The author of nine books, in 1996 he published his most influential one: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  Its thesis was that, in the post-Cold War world, people’s cultural and religious identities would be the primary sources of conflict.

Among the points he makes:

  • Modernization does not mean Westernization.
  • Economic progress has come with a revival of religion.
  • Post-Cold War politics emphasize ethnic nationalism over ideology.
  • Civilizations are fundamentally differentiated from each other by centuries-old history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion.
  • As the world becomes smaller, different civilizations increasingly interact. These intensify civilization consciousness and the awareness of differences between civilizations.
  • Economic modernization and social change separate people from age-old identities (such as hometowns and familiar neighbors). Religion has replaced this gap, providing a basis for identity, socialization and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
  • The West, at the peak of its power, is confronting non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, will and resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
  • Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.

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The most controversial part of The Clash of Civilizations focuses on Islam. Huntington points out, for example, that Muslim countries are involved in far more inter-group violence than others.

And he warns that the West’s future conflicts with Islamic nations will be rooted in the Islamic religion:

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

Huntington argues that civilizational conflicts are “particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims.”  Among the reasons for these conflicts: Both Islam and Christianity have similarities which heighten conflicts between their followers:

  • Both seek to convert others.
  • Both are “all-or-nothing” religions; each side believes that only its faith is the correct one.
  • The followers of both Islam and Christianity believe that people who violate the base principles of their religion are idolators and thus damned.

Other reasons for the Western-Islamic clash are:

  • The Islamic revival, which began in the 1970s and is manifested in greater religious piety and in a growing adoption of Islamic culture, values, dress, separation of the sexes, speech and media censorship.
  • Western universalism—the belief that all civilizations should adopt Western values—infuriates Islamic fundamentalists.

These are not differences that will disappear—overnight or even over the span of several centuries.  Nor will they be sweet-talked away by Politically Correct politicians, however well-meaning.

THE DISCRIMINATION DOOR SWINGS BOTH WAYS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

On June 19, Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled by protesters while dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. 

The reason: To protest the Trump administration’s separation of illegal alien parents from their children in detention centers.

Then, three nights later, on June 22, the owner of a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. 

The reason: To protest the Trump’s discrimination against transgenders’ entering the military. 

Those verbally assailing Nielsen shouted:

  • “Do you hear the babies crying?”
  • “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
  • “Shame! Shame! Shame!”  
  • “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The fucking gall.”
  • “No borders, no wall, sanctuaries for all.”

On June 23, Sanders tweeted her version of her requested exit: “Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

According to The Washington Post, the Red Hen’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, got a call from her staff, reporting that Sanders was at the restaurant. Several employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s efforts to bar transgenders from the military.

She added that her restaurant has “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation.”

From her statement, Wilkinson clearly believed Sanders was dishonest, inhumane and uncooperative.

On June 25, President Trump tweeted: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” 

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Donald Trump

[Trump’s charge that the Red Hen is “dirty on the inside” was—as usual for him—false. 

[According to its most recent state health inspection in February, the Red Hen restaurant had zero violations.

[On the other hand: Florida health inspectors cited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach with 15 violations in late January, 2017, days before Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there for a diplomatic visit

Nor was this an exception. From 2014-2017, records show the club was cited 78 times for such violations as:

  • Chefs handling food without washing their hands
  • Dirty cutting boards
  • A slicer “soiled with old food debris” and
  • The “accumulation of black/green mold-like substance” in the ice machine.]

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Mar-a-Lago

Ironically, Trump and his followers are responsible for Nielsen’s and Sanders’ evictions. They have pushed legislation allowing businesses to discriminate against anyone they dislike on the basis of “religious freedom.”

On March 26, 2015, Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana before accepting Trump’s invitation to become his Vice Presidential nominee, signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” 

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so. Or a hospital can legally refuse to treat gay patients.

Although he praised the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. 

On the eve of invading the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

Maybe Pence—like Hitler—sensed that he, too, was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” 

On the day after Pence signed the Act, Bill Levin filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State to register the First Church of Cannabis as a legitimate religious institution. The registration was approved.

By elevating religion above the law, Indiana’s legislators may have enabled Indiana’s Muslims to:

  • Claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives.
  • Demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor. (As happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim. (As happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And it was the Trump administration that supported the Supreme Court’s June 4 ruling 7-2 on behalf of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. He had claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs against homosexuality. 

By championing the rights of businesses to legally discriminate against anyone they dislike—under the guise of “religious freedom”—Trump and his followers have opened a door that they themselves may now be forced to walk through.

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am

As absolute dictator on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump delighted in firing one contestant every week.

As President of the United States, he has delighted in firing such high-ranking government officials as:

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
  • FBI Director James Comey
  • White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
  • Presidential Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
  • United States Attorney Preet Bharara

But there have been some officials Trump has fought to retain.  Among these:

  • National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
  • White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter
  • White House Speechwriter David Sorensen

MICHAEL FLYNN had fervently supported Trump during his 2016 campaign for President.  He was rewarded with appointment to National Security Adviser on January 20, 2017—the same day Trump became President.

But later in January, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned Trump that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

In December, 2016, Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration. The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

Instead of firing Flynn, Trump fired Yates.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported these events.  Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

STAFF SECRETARY ROB PORTER had the task of vetting all the information that reached Trump’s desk. He resigned February 7 after two of his ex-wives accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse.

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Rob Porter

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told CNN that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their 2003 wedding.  During their honeymoon trip to the Canary Islands, Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.  

“The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he’d be yelling at me but as he was yelling he’d me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger,” she said. He also repeatedly choked her.

While the couple visited Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2005, Porter punched Holderness in the face.

Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, married him in 2009. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, he began calling her “a fucking bitch” because he felt she was not having enough sex with him.

In the spring of 2010, Porter came to the home they had previously shared and punched a glass pane in the front door, cutting his hand.

Willoughby called police, who suggested that she take out a temporary restraining order. She did so in June, 2010.

In December, 2010, according to Willoughby, “we were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me.

“He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”

They divorced in 2013.

SPEECHWRITER DAVID SORENSEN resigned on February 9.  His ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, told the Washington Post that he put out a cigarette on her hand, drove a car over her foot, threw her into a wall and grabbed her by the hair when they were alone on a boat off the Maine coast.

Sorensen denied the allegation in a statement he released to CNN and other news media: “I have never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life.  In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her.”

He claimed he had spoken with an attorney about suing his ex-wife for defamation.

And how did Trump respond to these revelations?

On February 9, he told reporters that Porter’s departure was “very sad” and that “he did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

Donald Trump

Trump did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused.

Instead, he focused on Porter’s claim of innocence: “He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.  He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

On February 10—the day after Sorensen resigned—Trump took to Twitter to post:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

As Chris Cillizza, CNN’s editor-at-large wrote in a February 9 opinion column:

“This is a familiar pattern for Trump. When a series of women came out during the 2016 campaign alleging that he has sexually abused them, he flatly denied it — insisting that all of the women were conspiring to hurt him for political reasons.

“When a series of women came forward and said that Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore had pursued physical relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his mid 30s, Trump defended his endorsement of Moore, saying: ‘He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.'”

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