When memos surfaced this year showing top Justice Department lawyers trying to justify torture, Attorney General John Ashcroft moved quickly to stake out the moral high ground.
“This administration rejects torture,” Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I condemn torture.”
Maher Arar, 34, however, doesn’t buy it. For 10 months and 10 days, Arar was in a Syrian prison, where he says he was beaten and confined to a cell not much bigger than a coffin.
Arar was picked up by U.S. authorities at Kennedy International Airport in New York, accused of being a terrorist and then shipped on Justice Department orders to Syria under a secret policy known as rendition.
Let me start with a brief story about a society in which some people had slaves and attempted to use those slaves for income:
David thought the interview had gone well so far. Huxley Industries needed a slave to answer phones, keep records, and do other office work. David needed some better income and he had a slave to rent. His slave could easily do the jobs that they needed to be done.
“So can your slave be here by 7:30 am every weekday morning?”
David’s heart lurched. “You start that early?”
Well, we need him ready to go before others come to work. We found this position works better if he starts a half hour earlier.”
“This is the same president that two years ago said that Bashar Assad must leave office and so where is America’s credibility? Where is our ability to influence events in the region?” the Arizona Republican said.
And those “who say we should stay out of Syria do not understand that this is now a regional conflict” that is increasingly “getting worse,” he said. “And what is the president’s policy? What is the president’s policy?”
So Obama told the ruler of a sovereign country to leave office and that proves we must remove him? People who doubt the American Empire are fooling themselves.
And if Obama has that authority over the Syrian government, he certainly has authority over the “nation” of the United States. How can the legal claims of the Constitution bind a man who can make extra-legal rulings over another nation in a different hemisphere? If Obama has the authority to remove Assad, the Republic is truly dead.
Next to that, the foolishness of McCain’s claim that turning a regional conflict into a global one represents an improvement on the situation barely rates a mention.
So, I made a point today of visiting the most popular Christian websites to see all the prophetic denunciations of the coming US-government-sponsored, anti-Christian bloodbath that is about to be, as the cliche goes, “taken to the next level.”
I can’t believe I am part of a subculture who lauds Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce and G. K. Chesterton and Corrie Ten Boom. Apparently, the point of honoring heroes of old is so that we can credit ourselves for admiring them to compensate for being nothing like them.
Decorating the tombs of the prophets.
So here. Let me help you transition your outrage.
A question I have been thinking upon: Should we take Jesus description about the one who does his good works to impress others at face value?
Here is the passage:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4, ESV)
By itself this is a straightforward instruction. However, the people Jesus singled out for us to be sure we do not emulate did more than trumpet their help for the poor. They also exploited the poor and looted from them to add to their own wealth.
David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom (buy / epub / pdf / audio) is probably one of my favorite books defending the market and suggesting how it might be superior to deliver products that we currently depend on government to provide. Usual caveat. Friedman is a libertarian and I am not. But the book is still great.
One of the wonderful things it does is show us that the US welfare state generally redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor is an illusion. What follows is from chapter, “Robin Hood Sells Out.”
Suppose that one hundred years ago someone tried to persuade me that democratic institutions could be used to transfer money from the bulk of the population to the poor. I could have made the following reply: ‘The poor, whom you wish to help, are many times outnumbered by the rest of the population, from whom you intend to take the money to help them. If the non-poor are not generous enough to give money to the poor voluntarily through private charity, what makes you think they will be such fools as to vote to force themselves to give it?’
That would have been a crushing argument one hundred years ago. Today it is not. Why? Because people today believe that our present society is a living refutation of the argument, that our government is, and has been for many years, transferring considerable amounts of money from the not-poor to the poor.
This is an illusion. There are some government programs that give money to the poor — Aid to Families With Dependent Children, for instance. But such programs are vastly outweighed by those having the opposite effect — programs that injure the poor for the benefit of the not-poor. Almost surely, the poor would be better off if both the benefits that they now receive and the taxes, direct and indirect, that they now pay were abolished. Let us consider some examples.
Social Security is by all odds the largest welfare-type program in America; its annual payments are about four times those of all other welfare programs combined. It is financed by a regressive tax — about 10 percent on all income up to $7,800, nothing thereafter. Those who have incomes of less than $7,800, and consequently pay a lower amount per year, later receive lower payments, but the reduction in benefits is less than proportional. If the schedule of taxes and payments were the only relevant consideration, Social Security would redistribute slightly from higher-income to lower-income people.
But two additional factors almost certainly reverse the effect. Most Social Security payments take the form of an annuity — a certain amount per year, starting at a specified age (usually 65) and continuing until death. The total amount an individual receives depends on how long he lives beyond age sixty-five. A man who lives to age 71 receives 20 percent more, all other factors being equal, than a man who lives to age seventy. Further, the amount an individual pays for Social Security depends not only on how much he pays in taxes each year but on how many years he pays. A man who starts work at age 24 will pay Social Security taxes for 41 years; one who starts work at age 18 will pay for 47 years. The first, other factors being equal, will pay about 15 percent less than the second for
the same benefits. The missed payments come at the beginning of his career; since early payments have more time to accumulate interest than later ones, the effective saving is even greater.
Assuming an interest rate of 5 percent, the accumulated value of the first man’s payments, by age 65, would be about two-thirds as much as the accumulated value of the second man’s payments.
People with higher incomes have a longer life expectancy. The children of the middle and upper classes start work later, often substantially later, than the children of the lower classes. Both these facts tend to make Social Security a much better deal for the not-poor than for the poor. As far as I know, nobody has ever done a careful actuarial analysis of all such effects; thus one can only make approximate estimates.
Compare someone who goes to school for two years after graduating from college and lives to age 72 with someone who starts work at age 18 and dies at age 70. Adding the one-third savings on payments to the 30 percent gain in receipts (here the interest effect works in the opposite direction, since the extra payments for the longer life come at the end), I estimate that the first individual gets, from these effects, about twice as much for his money as the second. I do not know of any effects in the opposite direction large enough to cancel this.
Social Security is by no means the only large government program that takes from the poor to give to the not-poor. A second example is the farm program. Since it consists largely of government actions to hold up the price of crops, it is paid for partly by taxes and partly by higher food prices. Many years ago, when I did calculations on part of the Agriculture Department’s activities, I estimated, using Agriculture Department figures, that higher food prices then made up about two-thirds of the total cost of the part of the farm program I was studying. Higher food prices have the effect of a regressive tax, since poorer people spend a larger proportion of their income on food.
Higher prices benefit farmers in proportion to how much they sell; the large farmer gets a proportionately higher benefit than the small one. In addition, the large farmer can better afford the legal costs of getting the maximum benefit from other parts of the program. Notoriously, every year, a considerable number of farms or ‘farm corporations’ receive more than $100,000 apiece and a few receive more than $1 million in benefits from a program supposedly set up to help poor farmers.
So the farm program consists of a slightly progressive benefit (one which benefits those with higher incomes somewhat more than proportionately to those incomes) financed by a regressive tax (one which taxes those with higher incomes somewhat less than proportionately to those incomes). Presumably it has the net effect of transferring money from the more poor to the less poor—a curious way of helping the poor. Here again, I know of no precise calculations that have measured the overall effect.
One could list similar programs for many pages. State universities, for instance, subsidize the schooling of the upper classes with money much of which comes from relatively poor taxpayers. Urban renewal uses the power of the government to prevent slums from spreading, a process sometimes referred to as ‘preventing urban blight’. For middle-class people on the border of low-income areas, this is valuable protection. But ‘urban blight’ is precisely the process by which more housing becomes available to low-income people. The supporters of urban renewal claim that they are improving the housing of the poor. In the Hyde Park area of Chicago, where I have lived much of my life, they tore down old, low-rental apartment houses and replaced them with $30,000 and $40,000 town houses. A great improvement, for those poor with $30,000. And this is the rule, not the exception, as was shown years ago by Martin Anderson in The Federal Bulldozer.
This is not to deny that poor people get some benefit from some government programs. Everyone gets some benefit from some government programs. The political system is itself a sort of marketplace. Anyone with something to bid — votes, money, labor — can get a special favor, but the favor comes at the expense of someone else. Elsewhere I argue that, on net, very nearly everyone loses. Whether that is the case for everyone or not, it surely is the case for the poor, who bring less to the bidding than anyone else.
One cannot simply say, ‘Let government help the poor.’ ‘Reform the income tax so that rich people really pay’ Things are as they are for reasons. It would make as much sense for the defender of the free market to argue that when he sets up his free market it will produce equal wages for everyone.
All of the numbers in this chapter, including the description of the Society Security tax, refer to about 1970; both the tax rate and the maximum income subject to tax have increased substantially since then.
I believe that God not only exists and that Jesus is His Son raised from the dead and elevated by the Spirit, but I believe all this matters a lot. Jesus is the king of the universe and he will, one day, judge every creature–both the living and the dead.
So why do I find it so easy to agree with (some) atheists and secularists on the issue of abortion?
I’ve wondered about this before, but this article recently disturbed me with the question once again:
Yes, he does.
Here is the prophecy he gave to Isaiah (chapter 49):
Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
and my recompense with my God.”
And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
It is “too light a thing,” too small a thing” (NASB) for God to save a tiny remnant.
READ THE REST: Does God Care About Numbers? – Kuyperian Commentary.
Now that Bradley Manning has started campaigning for clemency on the basis of his alleged identity as Chelsea, a lot of Christians who are resisting the call to oppose mass homicide and tyranny are going to use his sexual perversions as an excuse to continue to resist that call. Since one of the other major players in this saga is the Leftist and homosexual Glenn Greenwald, the morality play is set for Christians to play the Punch and Judy show.
But we should know better. If Tolkien can make Gollum indispensable to overcoming Frodo’s faithlessness and breaking the power of the Dark Lord, we should know that such associations are not reasoned arguments.
“How religious are you? Would you describe yourself as ‘somewhat religious’ or ‘very religious’?”
I was speechless from the idea of being forced to talk about my the extent of religious beliefs to a complete stranger. “Somewhat religious”, I responded.
“How many times a day do you pray?” he asked. This time, my surprise must have registered on my face, because he quickly added, “I’m not trying to offend you; I just don’t know anything about Hinduism. For example, I know that people are fasting for Ramadan right now, but I don’t have any idea what Hindus actually do on a daily basis.”
READ THE WHOLE NIGHTMARE: /var/null.
And note the evil cooperation of the airline. We can’t rid the world of the FBI or TSA yet, but a boycott of the corporate collaborators would be a great thing.