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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We already knew this.

The torture report came out and all the tut-tutting that is going on is too little too late. We already knew the CIA was torturing people at black sights and third party surrogates. We had pictures from Abu Ghraib proving it was going on. Bush and Cheney boasted about it while in office and after they left office. The scope might be bigger than expected, but the scope doesn't matter. Torturing anyone is illegal under the constitution for any reason: it's called cruel and unusual punishment.

Here is a post from my Captain's Log blog in January 2011

My Two Cents

Quote from No Comment blog today. Sorry Scot Horton is no longer blogging.

Torture is the habit of tyranny, not of free republics, and it cannot simply be switched on and off. It inculcates a conception of state power and human worth that directly conflicts with our founding principle of an inalienable dignity to the human person, even the most culpable. As we know from Abu Ghraib, once it is unleashed, even as a supposedly well- quarantined tactic practiced by putative professionals, torture spreads like cancer…. This is the lesson of history for all governments that turn to torture: an isolated practice expands to become the emblem of state power and the reality of the citizens’ subjection.

—From
Because It Is Wrong—Torture, Privacy and Presidential Power in the Age of Terror

I'm no expert, and believe me I don't wish to be, on the subject of torture. Since the day W announced the opening of Guantanamo and the suspension of Habeas Corpus I knew torture would be in the mix. When the first pictures of torture surfaced from the normally lap dog press the only surprise was that it came to light so soon. Here's what I've learned since then:

A. Why torture is ineffective:
  • Torture does not get the information you need. The ticking time bomb scenario makes for good fiction, not reality. Military leaders and the different JAG's have all pointed this out repeatedly.
  • Standard military procedure is for captured soldiers to hold out under torture for 24 hours. At that point all the info they have will be useless. Sun Tzu mentions the Doomed Spy. Someone given information they think is correct so when captured and they reveal the information under torture makes the enemy believe the false information as true. We call this today Misinformation.
  • Eventually everyone under torture will say or do anything in order to make it stop. How many people have confessed to crimes and spend years or their lives in prison for a crime they didn't commit? Chicago is a prime example of a city's police department that trampled justice for decades until their practices came to light.
  • It dehumanizes the torturer as much at the one tortured. It dehumanizes the society that allows it. See quote above.
  • To implement torture you have to violate the following in our constitution: 1. Habeas Corpus - indefinite confinement without charge 2 Bill of Attainder - punishment without due process of law (5th and 14th amendments) 3 cruel and unusual punishment 6th amendment.
B. Torture's effectiveness:
  • I only came upon one mention of how torture can be done right, and it came from a cartel hitman interviewed in Harper's magazine. Naturally he was in the country's police force and kidnapped people to hold for ransom. He recounted that he would get all the information about the person he could find and when he started questioning the guy would know at first when he was lying and then would apply torture. Only after he conditioned the prisoner to not lie would he ask questions needed forthe financial information and ransom amount. This is kind of hard to do in a battlefield situation or by randomly grabbing people off the street in Iraq or Afghanistan. Stimulus/response only works with foreknowledge.
  • Conformity or obedience. In prisons like Guantanamo those prisoners who have been tortured are the least likely to cause problems, they've been tamed, so to speak.
  • They are however a tiger by the tail. Yes they will not cause problem while under guard, but let them loose and send them home and they want revenge. Many of those who were tortured and then released join terrorist groups wanting payback, can anyone blame them? This is unfortunately why Obama is finding it so hard to close these prisons down.

Monday, December 01, 2014

My books on Amazon

Individual novels are $0.99, the trilogy is $2.99

Fletcher Family Battles available for $0.99
 John Fletcher is a young knight looking to find a wife and begin his life until King Edward I decides to invade France. Fighting alongside the Black Prince at the battle of Crecy and making a name for himself he becomes the patriarch of of the Fletcher family of Mill Town Abbey.

John Fletcher is child of a third son and decides he doesn't like studying to be a priest. Entering the army of Henry VIII he's sent to Spain in what becomes known as Wolsey's War coming home in disgrace. Joining the artillery when Scotland threatens to invade he redeems himself at the battle of Flodden.

Milton Fletcher is the second son of John Fletcher master of Mill Town Abbey. Thomas Wolsey the King's Almoner favors him and he starts to rise in the bureaucracy being created by the most formidable man in England.

Gregor Fletcher is head of Clan Fletcher in Aberdeen. Called by King James IV to join in the invasion of England his whole clan is on the line should they fail.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Death With Dignity

Came across this post today on the Brittany Murphy assisted suicide. Reading the comments reinforced Benjamin Corey's arguments on the true horror of the woman's sadly short life, Christian condemnation for her choice.  Some of the commenters still don't understand the woman didn't want to die, but she was faced with the choice of ending he life peacefully or suffering a truly horrible death from her disease. Someone with compassion, someone who is supposed to be known to the world by their LOVE, would weep with her family and grieve with her family, not say or print what they think God will do to her.
Have Christians forgotten the words of Jesus: Matthew 7:1 Do not judge lest you be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your measure it will be measured to you. Or have they forgotten Paul's words: Romans 8:1 There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Finally the good news in a nutshell: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave  his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
The message of Jesus and what he lived and died for was F-O-R-G-I-V-E-N-E-S-S. From what fundamentalist Christians are saying Jesus is only about judgement and condemnation which is totally opposite for what He gave his life and rose from the grave to accomplish.
 I have a friend whose mother was suffering from a painful terminal illness, but she hid her pain and without the family knowing of her illness committed suicide. They were members in a fundamentalist church that I belonged for a time. At the funeral I will never forget this pastor's words: "When she met Jesus I'm sure she said,'I did wrong.' and Jesus said, 'Yes you did, but you're forgiven.'"
My question here is: if we can have love and compassion for fellow Christians why can't we do the same for non-believers? Brittany Murphy will not be judged by God on how she died, but how she lived and what she believed while alive, and no one else has a say or knows God's decision.
Two of my loved ones died of cancer and for understandable reasons one chose to let nature take its course and the other fought to the bitter end. My role was not to judge either one of them, but to understand and be there with help, love, compassion, to grieve with my family during their demise and after their passing.
My father was in his eighties, suffering from type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the doctor tried hard to give him treatment, but it would be chemo-therapy which would make him sick and weak to prolong his life at most six months. His choice six weeks of hospice care where the pain would be managed or six months of dizziness, vomiting and loose stools. Would anyone in their right mind choose to have the treatment?
My sister was in her early forties with a four year old daughter when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With the best of care and up-to-date treatment she survived for five years. My sister had a good reason to live as long as possible no matter the pain: she wanted to spend all the time she had with her husband and daughter.
Would the judgmental Christians condemn my father for choosing to die without a fight and praise my sister for fighting? Who cares? It's none of their damn business!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To spank or not to spank

That is the question.
Does it work?
Is it in varying degrees of damage or abstinence only?
Is discipline to be ignored and children run wild or do we beat obedience and drive out individuality?
Is it done because the Bible says so?
Or out of:
Anger?
Frustration?
Control?
Should society step between parent and child or mind its own business?
Is spanking all that should be banned and what about verbally crushing a soul striving for identity?
How were you raised?
How did you discipline your children?
How do you want your children to discipline your grandchildren?
What would you do if you saw a child being spanked in public?
Are our prisons overflowing because parents stopped spanking or because they were spanked?
Have you ever wanted to tell a parent whose child is screaming in public to "Give them something to cry about?"
Dear fellow bloggers, what are your thoughts and answers?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Struggles of faith

I came across this link on the facebook page of a good friend from college. It talks about how what are now being called Post Evangelicals. Chaplain Mike says the culture of Evangelicalism has turned us off, not the theology.
For many post-evangelicals like me, it is the culture that became a primary problem. When I say I am in the wilderness, I certainly don’t mean I’ve lost my faith. I have lost my “world,” my “culture.” I don’t fit any more. Some of us may agree with one tradition more than another when it comes to beliefs; we may even feel perfectly comfortable with a simple, basic set of evangelical doctrines as the content of our “faith.” But its forms can no longer sustain us.

This brought to mind belonging to De Molays the teenage axillary of the Masons. My grandfather and father were masons and brother and I were encouraged to join. Once a month we had a meeting, it had an opening ritual where most of the older members had memorized parts, but the business meeting was usually about fundraisers, dances and other social gatherings. I liked the dances. They were held in a special lodge had a band or two and lots of Job's Daughters from all over the city for partners.
On the surface everything had a religious basis, but the culture of the group I was in was far from spiritual. Some of our parties revolved around playing penny ante poker at other gathering most of the guys were smoking and drinking (under age) which their parents winked at. I can't complain too much about the language since Dad was a marine and taught me all the words growing up.
A couple of years of this and I had enough. I wasn't into phony friends.

For the past thirty years we've bounced from one church to another. We belonged to one church where we were very happy and in one Sunday school lesson it turned rabid by outsiders brought in to make sure the church toed the new evangelical doctrine of "Sanctity of Human Life." Those who thought differently were shunned. It is the culture, but in many cases it's an enforced conformity and mind control. And I'm not going to go down the path of John Calvin's tyranny set up in Geneva, or Oliver Cromwell's England, or Puritanical New England.
At least here the worst rabid conformists can do is exclude you from fellowship, look what ISIS is doing in Syria and Iraq. Believe me if they could get enough control of our government they would do the same things here, and I'm not exaggerating Rushdoonie, before he died and the Dominionists that are his followers are openly saying what they will do or ought to be done to homosexuals, atheists, and Muslims.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Wage theft

There's been a number of articles and stories in the news about wage theft like this one here. Which got me to thinking is this something new or has it been SOP for business and people are finally getting wise? Which made me go down memory lane.
  • My first job was at a Taco Bell June of 1969. I worked for a month on the night shift. We closed at 11:00pm and were given 30 minutes to clean up and clock out. I was 16 and made a whopping $.75 an hour. The one perk was that all food and drink was free. A teenage boy allowed to eat all the tacos, burritos and bell beefers (their hamburger, not on the menu now) he wants even if everything on the menu at that time was 25 cents; it more than made up the difference for the then minimum wage of $1.60/hour. The first night manager knew how to get everything cleaned and put away in that time. Mom had to take me to work and come bak to take me home, but she thought it was good for me to get work experience. Gil left after my first week and Mary was his replacement as night manager. She didn't have a clue and most nights we didn't get out until one in the morning, but we had to clock out at 11:30. One night we didn't get done till 0300. Mom to this day says while she was sitting out there waiting for me that she would rather have paid me to not work there. Working an hour and a half to four hours without getting paid I chalked up to experience and fortunately for some bizarre reason the regular manger fired me after working there three weeks. Mom breathed a sigh of relief. 
  • Same summer in July and August I worked at an A&W. The only thing free to employees was root beer. After a week I started drinking water. It was a much better place to work than Taco Bell and I got a whopping $1.15/hour. I answered the intercom taking orders and the fountain filling drink orders, making milk shakes, frosties and floats. It was close enough to home to walk back and forth and Mom didn't have to wait outside for me. Where does wage theft come in? Taking orders I also added up the bill, if I overcharged I got a tongue lashing from Mr. Hamilton (he's long dead now and the business has gone through a dozen incarnations since it was an A&W.) as that has a tendency to drive customers away. If I was under, the difference was taken out of my paycheck. Every paycheck anywhere from fifty cents to a buck and a half was deducted. Basically every week I had one hour of my wages deducted. I didn't like it at the time and I have never worked in food since.
  • Senior year in high school I worked at a Skaggs drug store for the Christmas rush and the summer before heading off to college. I was paid minimum wage and treated well and never had anything deducted from my wages or required to work without pay even when I had a two wheeler of distilled water tip over and nine gallons of water spilled on the floor. I worked as a security guard senior year of college. While working for Pinkerton's and Burns everything was above board.
  • While going through a divorce I was a door to door salesman for month of July in 1976, and it nearly ruined me. It was straight commission, the first week was memorizing the script so gas to and from was not paid or my time. All calls to the customers was in my car and with my gas. When I started going out on calls the commission on a $800 set of fire alarms was $150.00. And in the next three weeks I sold four sets so I should have made $600.00, guess again. My take for the whole four weeks as I drove all over Albuquerque sometimes putting on fifty miles an evening in my car and on my dime was $150.00. I got paid for only one set. If the customer's credit wasn't good enough the set was sold to a high risk credit company and the salesman didn't get the commission. A month of this and I ran up a tab on my lone credit card of $400.00. When I finally came to my senses and school started I worked as a substitute teacher and in the evenings as a security guard again. I took me six months to pay off that credit card.
  • If you think about how teachers are paid, wage theft is the norm. Teachers are paid for 180 days of classroom instruction and 2 days of in-service meetings and registration. The salary is spread out over twelve months, but all those holidays and vacation days like fall break, winter break, spring break and summer break are not paid. Each paid day is for 6 1/2 hours of instruction. Before school meetings and after school meetings, parent/teacher conferences are not paid. The vast majority of teachers put eight to ten hours a day and possibly weekend hours to plan, grade and prepare out of the goodness of their hearts. The IRS recognizes that teachers also dip into their own pockets for supplies and allow a $500.00 deduction on income tax. Believe me the IRS is on the low side of what teachers spend. If all states paid their public school teachers for the hours they really work and provided the supplies required it would triple their operational education budget. The taxpayers get a big break from wage theft when it comes to teachers. Don't get me started about how little public school coaches make per hour expended.
  • Lastly my short experience with a cheapskate employer. Day care was cutting into our budget and I thought a part time job was needed. I went back to being a security guard in the evenings and on weekends (most teachers have a second job, see why above), but Burns and Pinkertons weren't hiring. I got a job with a local security firm working 4 hours a day every day of the week, but the kicker here was 5% of each paycheck was deducted as rent of the uniforms. Burns and Pinkertons simply provided them and if you left their employ you returned them. 5% on 28 hours of work per week and $4.50 and hour may not seem like much, but it lowered the hourly salary to $4.27/hour. How cheap do you have to be to charge an employee 23 cents an hour to use a uniform that has to be worn for the job?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What a week I had yesterday

Got to the office yesterday to find water streaming down from the vent above the commode and water all over the floor. There is an upside to working at a plumbing company, when one of the plumbers showed up to load his van I drafted him to fix the problem. He found the six gallon hot water heater sprung a leak and turned off the water, took it out and reconnected the water line so we have water, just not hot water. Since we don't cook, shower or wash clothes not a real problem. Why would they put a hot water heater in the attic? I just love mopping up a floor first thing in the morning. Luckily my office and lawyer's office were not damaged. I just had to rearrange everything so he could have access and can't put anything back until he installs the new one, which could be six months from now the way things work around here.
Took some papers to the courthouse, but the parking lot next to it is being used by a filming crew. Most likely Better Call Saul the spin off from Breaking Bad which is set for a February start on AMC. I found a parking space three blocks away, but the south side of Lomas's sidewalk is being rebuilt so I had to walk across the street then down to the courthouse and cross it again. When I made it through security and got to the clerk to drop off and pick up papers I took down a few days earlier I knew the client's name, but not the other party's name and since he's the defendant not the plaintiff I had to walk back to my car call the office to get the name I needed and walk back. It really pisses me off that human being can't take cell phones into the courthouse, but lawyers can. At least I got some exercise, about as good as four par 5's on the golf course just with a lot of carbon monoxide fumes thrown in.
Then I had to pick up a package from another law firm. I stopped and picked up a some hotdogs at a Circle K and back in the office while eating them got mustard all over my shirt. That really makes a good impression on the clients as I greet them at the door.
Did not get one word written on the short story I'm working on to submit to a contest. It's tough trying to get a complete story done in only 2,000 words.