Dianne Feinstein, the Iron Maiden

Okay – now I’m really mad. And what’s worse, I’m mad on two fronts. For one thing I don’t like people messing with my language, and for another, I don’t like people messing with the people who do the hard and dirty work of keeping us safe.

Dianne Feinstein’s release of the enhanced interrogation technique documents is, on both national and linguistic fronts, an act of treason. To attack the language by which we carry on our national dialogue and the methods we use to protect our right to have a national dialogue is unforgivable.

Let’s look at the language piece of this first.

Torture is a concept way out on the edges of cruelty and evil. It is not merely making a person uncomfortable. Torture causes screaming, mind-destroying agony.  It is not merely scaring or even terrifying a person. It is not humiliation, nor is it mere confinement. Nor is it the same as irritation, or annoyance, or frustration. It’s not merely causing distress or anxiety. Torture leaves physical scars – twisted limbs, missing fingernails, missing fingers, toes, eyes, tongues. It drives people permanently mad. To torture is to cause maximum pain while still keeping the victim alive, and has been used throughout human history to extract information, to effect revenge, to punish in such a way as to scare others out of committing the same crime – Braveheart comes to mind.

To think that pouring water on a prisoner reaches that level is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about what man is capable of doing to his fellow man. It is ignorance of history. When the CIA water boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed they followed strict guidelines allowing breaks every few seconds; they had doctors and minders and interpreters in the room with him. There were strict limits. With torture there are no limits. Allow me to elaborate:

In the Middle Ages torturers liked to place men in coffin-shaped cages – if possible cages really too small for the man’s size. They’d hang the cage outdoors and leave the victim there until he rotted. The French liked to arrive at the same end by using the oubliette – a narrow, deep dungeon into which they’d lower their victim, and forget about him – hence the name oubliette from oublier, to forget. Those in power abused their power by letting their evil imaginations run rampant. The iron maiden – horrible name – imprisoned a man in its hollow interior – an interior filled with iron spikes. As the inquisitor fired questions, he’d push on the door, driving the spikes ever deeper into the victim.

The rack was the staple of the Spanish Inquisition – an inquisition not done to protect Spain from an enemy, but done to force citizens to relinquish their beliefs or to accuse their neighbors. The rack stretched a man, his arms and legs attached to cranks that the tormentors turned, slowly, agonizingly pulling a man apart.

The current fuss about tummy-slapping and sleep deprivation not only shows ignorance, but a naive assumption, a Darwinian assumption, that man is getting better and better, so much so that even playing loud music is too terrible to consider. After all, that other grisly stuff happened in the distant past -- those who don’t study history tend to lump all of the past together, but note that those practices were common only five or six centuries ago.

In times before that people were also doing horrible things to each other. Boiling captives in oil, impaling them, carefully pushing the stake between organs so as to keep the victim alive longer. The Assyrians enjoyed skinning their prisoners alive. They did this as a contest to see who could keep his victim screaming the longest. Perhaps entertainment should also be added to torture’s list of purposes.

And any discussion of torture has to include crucifixion, which did much the same thing as the rack, adding to the excruciating (a word derived from the word crucifixion) pain, slow asphyxiation. If the asphyxiation took too long the Romans would break the legs of the prisoner to hasten that process.

Well, this proves that mankind has learned to be kinder. I’m sure they give out Boy Scout badges for getting all bent out of shape about making people stand in front of a wall; the Age of Aquarius must be just around the corner.

No. Not. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and their ilk have driven a stake through that nonsense. Syria alone, just since the beginning of the uprising 2011, has tortured to death an estimated 55,000 people. They specialize in using a technique called the flying carpet which involves tying a person, face down, to a hinged board and gradually bending the board, compressing the spine and eventually breaking it. They also like to handcuff a prisoner’s wrists behind his back and hang him, by his wrists, from the ceiling -- another variation on the rack.

Torture – real, debilitating, crazy-making, excruciating torture is still being done today by societies anxious to do those things to us. We have built systems and hired people to protect us from such monsters, and that job is ugly and requires them to rub elbows with evil, demands that they work in uncomfortable, dangerous places, and obligates them to make dreadful decisions, to look the wicked realities of human nature right in its jaundiced eye. Very few of us are willing to do that.

That doesn’t mean that the enemy tortures so it’s OK for us to do so. It does mean that we will have to get rough – just rough enough – to get these cowards to talk. Not rough enough to use as a scare tactic. Not rough enough to entertain anyone, but rough enough to find out ahead of time what these jackals are up to.

Liberal fantasies notwithstanding, man has not evolved into a pussycat – not by a long shot. Many Americans have, however, become so removed from reality that they think they can just call things by different names and thereby change what-is into what-ought-to-be. They, like one of Dickens’ characters who couldn’t “look on anything that wasn’t perfectly prim, proper, and pleasant,” want to just ignore the terrifying realties of war. Even our president doesn’t want to call our efforts to stop Islamic militants “war.” He doesn’t even want to call them “Islamists.” But they are Muslims and we are fighting for our national existence. But they’ll like us better if we stop keeping them up at night, if we give them prayer rugs and home-style cooking, volleyball courts and Korans. They’ll like us even better now that we’ve come clean about how we treat “detainees.”

In what lopsided, topsy-turvy world would that work? Not in this one. In this world the Islamists will use this CIA document as a training manual. They’ll probably use it as a joke book. We will no longer know what they’re planning, no longer be able to prevent attacks. Feinstein, by releasing this document, has given aide and comfort to the enemy and has put every one of the brave and dedicated men and women who protect us in danger. It has flipped on a spotlight that’s aimed right at them.

And who wants to protect a country that will turn on you the way the Democrats have done here? Our intelligence officers, regardless of which agency, must be free to act quickly, dispassionately, decisively and do so without any hyper-prissy hesitation – to protect themselves and to protect us.

Nothing is more unattractive than superior uber fastidious self-righteousness, especially when you stack it up against self-less devotion to duty and nation that we find in our military and investigative institutions. I am furious at what this vindictive, traitorous woman has done to us all. To use a word wrongly, to fill it with baggage it was not meant to carry, to debase the only way we have to make sense of this world is the worst crime of all.

 

 

 

The Star out of Jacob

Christmas is almost here – we’ve put up our tree, we’re scurrying around town doing our shopping, and staring at the boxes of cards we need to get addressed. Christmas as usual, but every year I realize that I’ve learned something new about the birth of Christ – something that makes it all matter even more than it ever has. This year I am even more struck with the reality of Christ’s birth and the precise divine planning that went into that first Christmas. Christmas is not a fairytale – Santa notwithstanding. It’s a documented historical reality – documented both in writing and in the stars….

Those of us who attended Sunday School in our youth eventually came face to face with the “begats” – those long strings of genealogy filled with unpronounceable names and apparently impossible ages—Check out a few verses from Genesis 5:
 
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died… and on and on and on.

The last of the begats is recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel.  It runs from Abraham, c2500 B.C., to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. It’s taken me many years to understand why these lists are in the Bible and what they have to do with Christmas. But now I think I have a glimmer.

You see, most other religions have at their center beings that are not thoroughly embedded in recorded history, dramatically connected to celestial events, clearly placed in both time and space. Siddarhtha Guatama (Buddha) is thought to have lived somewhere in the East, sometime between the 6th and the 4th centuries B.C.; we know nothing about his background, his ancestors. Mohammed was born in a specific time (570 A. D.) in a specific place (Mecca), and we know he was orphaned and raised by his uncle; other than that we have no information about his lineage; he just pops into history. The Hindu gods have no human presence – no human prophets, just sages who appear occasionally and then ghost off.

But Jesus Christ is different. We can, through those interminable “begats,” trace his ancestry, without a hitch, from Adam, through his third son Seth, to Noah, from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and from David through two different lines (Solomon and Nathan) to Joseph and Mary respectively, the Joseph and Mary who travelled to Bethlehem where Jesus was born in 2 B.C.

Jesus is not just some mythical figure, some legend of a really good guy who was followed by a few misfits until his untimely and grisly end. His presence on earth was predicted, proclaimed, prophesied from the earliest of human existence. Adam and Eve learned of his eventual sacrifice just after they disobeyed God and lost their place in Eden. Two animals died to make that clear to them. Their second son understood the lesson they had handed down to him and expressed that understanding in his animal sacrifice. Their first son rejected that message and made two sacrifices that demonstrated that – a plate of vegetables and his believing brother, Abel. Generations later Abraham thoroughly understood and when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham almost went through with it, partly because he knew that God would someday sacrifice His own son.

When the angel of death swooped down over Egypt almost a thousand years later, it was the shedding of blood, the sacrificial lamb that saved the Jews from the loss of their firstborn. Later, Moses built the Tabernacle and it was centered on the idea of the sacrificial death of the perfect.  I could go on and on like the “begats,” but the point is that since Adam and Eve left the Garden man looked forward to the arrival of a savior. They even had the idea connected to a star:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.  Numbers 24:17

The Wise Men, the Magi, likely a remnant of Jews who stayed in Babylon after the captivity (586-538 B.C.), knew about the prophecies, they watched for the signs -- the signs that God planned into the universe since before the beginning of time. They counted Sabbath years and Jubilee years. They (Whether there were three of them, or more, no one knows.) followed the star across the desert to where it stopped over Bethlehem. Stars don’t stop – but planets appear to as they trace their own orbits across sky (retrograde motion).

Because the universe runs more precisely than a Rolex we can use modern software to trace back in time and see if there might be an astronomical event that coincided with the birth of Christ, which we can date via the death of Herod and the Roman census. An older interpretation of historical events points to 4 B.C. for Herod’s death, though recent information leans toward 1 B.C.. Herod the Great was the king who grilled the Wise Men about the newborn “King of the Jews” and ordered the killing of the baby boys. He died shortly after this decree, so the birth of Jesus had to precede Herod’s death.

According to the recent work of Jack Finnegan and Rick Larson interesting things were happening in the skies just prior to that death.  In the fall of 3B.C., just a few days after the Feast of Tabernacles the people of the Middle East would have seen the beginning of a triple conjunction of Jupiter and the star Regulus, September 14th, February 12th and May 9th. The two bodies appeared so close together that to the naked eye they would have appeared to be one huge, super-bright star. (It’s worth noting that Regulus is the key planet in the constellation Leo and that Jesus Christ is of the tribe (back to begats) of Judah whose symbol is the Lion. Christ even bears the title “The Lion of Judah.” It is also worth noting that triple conjunctions had had historical significance for the Jews for 500 years before this event.)

Just nine months later on the 17th of June, 2 B.C. the Magi would have seen a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus. This would have been even brighter.

But what about December 25th? Did that get lost in the shuffle? No. The Magi, if they saw the triple conjunction that started in September of 3 B.C. and counted nine months forward would have been convinced come the conjunction in June of 2 B.C. that the Christ child had been born. Then they set out, probably from Babylon, and the retrograde motion of Jupiter would have led them, six months later, to Bethlehem. When would that have happened? When was it that Jupiter appeared to stand still over that tiny town? On December 25th of 2 B.C.

And so we are here on a different continent over 2,000 years later and we buy gifts, as the Magi did, and we put a star on the top of the tree and lights all over our houses, and sing about angels and wise men and shepherds, half the time giving no thought to the reality of what we celebrate: the birth of the God-Man, Israel’s promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.  There will be peace on Earth and there always has been good will toward men.

 

I referenced several sources in the course of writing this piece, chief amongst them are:

Allen Johnson’s pdf file “Rediscovering Ancient Chronologies”

Rick Larson’s video “The Bethlehem Star”

 

 

 

 

Even Steven -- Fundamental Problems with Equality

The further into the frightening future we travel the more we will need to understand what has gone wrong with our national thinking, and more importantly, how we are going to correct it. We have spent the last 6 years listening to our dear leader chastise us about equality, about paying our “fair share,” about redistributing wealth. His ideas are essentially and hopelessly false and infantile; either we rid ourselves of such rubbish, or life in America will continue to go bad.

The idea of fairness is one of the earliest moral ideas that children grasp. If little Steven sees his sister with a cookie, he’s going to throw a fit if he doesn’t get one, too. You expect that in a little kid. Grown-ups understand the more sophisticated concept of justice – maybe Steven’s sister ate her broccoli and is being rewarded, maybe she helped wash the dishes and that is her wage. Steven’s too little to get that.

Basically there are two faces to the concept of fairness: fairness as in equality, and fairness as in justice. We can no longer afford to confuse the two.
         o    Fairness, as in equality, deals with outcomes – outcomes that have to be forced. Let’s say Steven’s favorite aunt, Nancy, takes pity on him and forces his sister Suzy to share her cookie. That’s not just – she earned it and he didn’t, but it is equal.
        o    Fairness, as in justice, deals with process, with merit, with intrinsic value. Suzy completed a task; she screwed up her face, squinted her eyes, held her nose then chewed and swallowed the nasty vegetable. Her plate was clean and she had obeyed her parents. Steven had just flat out refused to be bribed into eating anything green. Justice demands that he suffer the loss of the treat. That’s sad for him, but it is just.

A nation’s government needs to be concerned with justice, not with equality. Why?
Because equality is a lesser idea than integrity – it is not equal to justice.
        o    Equality suggests a numerical accounting.
        o    Justice suggests a moral or legal accounting.
        o    Equality emphasizes what we have, what we get, and does so with concrete, palpable measurements – salaries, property, pleasures. In feminist thinking all women should earn the same salary as men in similar jobs. That seems fair, but the just arrangement takes into consideration that women often quit their jobs to care for children, and often don’t enter the workforce until their male counterparts have accrued many years of experience. Parity here is not necessarily just.
        o    Justice emphasizes action and accurate, truthful evaluation of that action. When the crowds went nuts in Ferguson it was because they were not looking for justice – they wanted equality. They wanted the life of Darren Wilson for the life of Michael Brown. No one was concerned about the actions of either person. They wanted a white life for a black one. Period. The crowd had that all backward – justice had been served, the evidence considered and an evaluation of the actions of both Brown and Wilson had been issued. But the crowd appeared unable to understand that level of fairness; they could only comprehend the little boy level, the Steven level, the you-got-yours-I-want-mine level.

But don’t our founding documents deal with equality? Yes – the Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal.” So, aren’t people entitled to demand that kind of fairness?

In the phrase “created equal” who is it doing the creating? God. Not the government, not other people, but God. “Created” indicates the beginning of a life, not the middle or the end. And if God created us He must have had a purpose for doing so. This statement refers, if one reads closely and thinks clearly, to equality in purpose. If God created each of us, then each of us has a reason to be here, a functional part to play in the plan of God, a place in that plan that is of equal importance to everyone else. That’s where we start. God didn’t create all thirty-somethings to earn the same wages or live in the same kind of houses. We were created different from each other, totally unique and sameness has no place in this picture.

We have to remember that our founding fathers had left a country where people were not deemed to have equal value. The peasants were the peasants and could become nothing more. The royalty was the royalty, and while they could become dead, they would never become peasants. That fixed status was part of what had driven people to these shores. Ridding themselves of the yoke of a frozen class structure was a big piece of the free market puzzle that this nation, and no other nation, solved.

Now we could look at this equality clause through a post-modern, deconstructionist lens and we could decide to read into it our own desires to return to childhood dependency and throw fits whenever life didn’t give us cookies. And most institutions of higher “learning” do just that. This is another part of our thinking that has to grow up if we are to remain America.

Equality in outcome can never be realized. When we institutionalize equality, some human beings have to impose that equality, and therefore those people are, by necessity, above all others. If Aunt Nancy is going to equalize cookie-eating, she has to have the authority to make Suzy share. And Nancy can have all the cookies she wants. Don’t forget that.

We can either have the market determine who has more (a matter of merit or justice), or we can have government determine who has more (in an effort to impose equality), but either way someone will come out ahead. If we determine superiority by justice – he who works hardest, has the best ideas, i.e. the most merit, then who-has-what will happen naturally and can fluctuate according to the wills of the individuals in the society. Yes some will become wealthy and will therefore have more power than others – temporarily, but that is always open to change. When someone who is more energetic, more intelligent, more talented will come along and supplant the powerful.

If, however, government determines who-has-what:
       o    Individual talents and abilities are wasted, therefore there is less wealth available to share equally.
       o    Change is slow, cumbersome, and usually ineffectual. Government has life-or-death power over individuals and private business does not; the fear of governmental reprisal stultifies ingenuity and progress.
       o    Graft and corruption become more prevalent because the idea of justice and merit takes a lower position in the conscience of the society, and because everyone wants in on the opportunity to amass more than his own “fair share” of the wealth.
       o    Government targets business, its nemesis. Therefore, in order for business to survive it has to sidle up close to government. This increases graft and corruption and further damages the fluidity of the markets.

Before long no one has any cookies – Aunt Nancy has eaten them all, and Suzy’s mom has gotten tired of baking cookies; there was no percentage anymore since Suzy was also refusing to eat her vegies; she could see no advantage in doing so. Everything is even-Steven, yes, but no one wants an equal amount of nothing. We can only fix this by thinking clearly ourselves and by sending those clear thoughts out to others. Fill our national bandwidth with rational thought; push the nonsense back down the drain where it belongs.