May 29, 2007

Back to the Dark Ages?

Dark forces have been unleashed in fury in an attempt to turn the clock back to the moral and intellectual bleakness of the Dark Ages of Europe.
We, the world population of this modern age, stand at a crisis point in human history. Many people of good will have recognized what is going on, although hardly with one, clear view. Instead, the aweful phenomenon has been interpreted in a myriad of optics, creating confusion and lack of power among the resistance. Yet the essential evil of the bold menace has been described, even while its causes and promoters remain obscure.

The modern reactionaries have all kinds of tricks at their disposal for the formidable task of regressing the planet back to the days of feudal lords and penniless peasants. Perhaps the most effective tool is called 'the media,' meaning the conglomerate of television, radio, and newspapers, but which can reasonably include movies, as well. These means of mass communication all arose out of 'free societies' wherein men could exercise creative talent and develop new ideas. Now, the puppet masters want to use the products of freedom to prepare the way for neo-feudalism. By gaining control of the media, the regressors are using them to subtly brain-wash the masses with the values and views that suit the goals of class domination. This they can do in full daylight, knowing that the common person is so over-stimulated in all aspects of life as to prefer to carry on in the trusting belief that all is well with the world... at least until it becomes obvious that it isn't.

What signals the reversion to a dark past are leading indicators from the country that prides itself as the vanguard of progress, the acolyte of knowledge, the home of the free, etc. The government of the USA has embraced the doctrine of the 'pre-emptive strike,' which is the Newspeak phrase for what was always known as unprovoked aggression. It has declared that in the event of war, all levels of civilization attained in the last 5,000 years are open to suspension... Then they went ahead and declared 'war' on 'terrorism' just to make sure that the pretext was in place. One thing this government has tried hard to do is turn aside the flagship document of liberty, the Constitution of the USA. In this, thankfully, they have been opposed, and have achieved only partial success. Yet, among their dubious successes has been the re-institution of torture as an instrument of unofficial policy. This fact is truly appalling after the horrifying lessons of history; but in a system of homogenizing education (a.k.a. indoctrination), history is what the masters want it to be. One should rightly demand, How could the 'epitome of humanity' sanction the use of torture? Of course, at the official, PR level, the US government maintains that it does not endorse or use torture on 'suspects'-- while winking and nodding that interrogation may include 'pressure tactics.'

The practice of 'torture lite' seemed to slip in rather painlessly, one might say. Sure, in the wake of 9-11, the media reported first, the possibility, adding various examples of hypothetical cases where 'even civilized people' would be justified in applying harsh treatment on prisoners in order to extract information vital to the safety of their own citizens. The argument is really futile and fatuous... but it apparently satisfied the average readers and viewers of America who hardly registered a complaint against such macho nonsense. The next thing Americans knew, their government had efficiently rounded up hundreds of 'terrorists' and sequestered them in a secluded enclave in, of all places, Cuba.

In a marvelous display of political sophistry, the White House declared that the US was not bound by the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war because (remember?) these prisoners were not 'soldiers'... altho they were captured in a 'war' on terror. Neither were they subject to normal American legal process because (you got it!) they were not in America. With this absurd logic, American forces were free to treat (or mistreat, as it turns out) these unfortunates any way they wanted. After five years or more, some of them are still being held with no charges. Those that get charged are then faced with the prospect of kangaroo trials where they never see evidence and basically have no rights. Git-mo (as it was nicknamed) still holds a detainee who was barely 15 when he was captured, and who the UN conventions clearly consider a child soldier.

Maybe some of you readers still cling to a nagging belief that, well, sometimes as unpleasant as it is, 'our people' could be justified in using torture. To that I say plainly, bullshit! In the first case, anyone who resorts to violence puts himself on the same level as the one whom he claims to abhor. You cannot decry the abuse of human rights in another country while condoning it-- even in your carefully contrived special circumstances-- in your own. Once you've demonstrated such duplicity, you lose all moral authority

If you are one of those who don't care about ethics, just 'whatever works,' then even in that case, torture is pointless. 'Intelligence' officers themselves admit that any information obtained under torture is very unreliable, at best. Not only that, but it is most likely outdated, and of little use, even if it should be correct. And, if you claim to live in such a civilized and advanced society, have you not heard of lie-detectors? If our 'intelligence' agents really wanted useful information, why wouldn't they just bring in the polygraph and its operator, and ask the suspect the desired questions? Answer-- because it's not really about information! It's about terrorizing the big, bad enemy one participant at a time.

And there's another 'practical' reason that should also appeal to the pragmatists who aren't concerned over ethics. Once it is known by 'them' that 'our people' are using torture, then 'they' now consider themselves fully justified in using torture against 'the good guys' when they are captured, as will inevitably happen. That's why the revelation of widespread, systemic prisoner abuse in the Abu-Graib facility was a multiple fiasco for the Americans. It not only revealed their moral hypocrisy to a skeptical world; it left the door open for 'justified' mistreatment of US individuals who might fall into the insurgents' hands.

See, the neo-cons (emphasis on 'cons') pretending to run the USA have strived mightily to turn the clock back to the Dark Ages of the Inquisitions. All the elements are in place; only the labels have been updated. During the Inquisitions, essentially any person could accuse someone else of being either a 'heretic' or a witch, and that hearsay charge was sufficient for the accused to be hauled before a panel of self-appointed judges for questioning. If the answers weren't quite suitable, harsher interrogation methods were fully sanctioned by the supreme authority, the Church. Here's the crazy part: torture was administered until the accused confessed to the charge. Once the confession was obtained, the accused-- now clearly 'guilty' could be legally executed by the state... often using (you guessed it) torture. Of course, if the accused had the nerves to resist confessing, well then the 'interrogation' continued until the person expired. This patent madness went on, not for some brief moment of history, but for centuries!

Today, the accused persons are charged with terrorism, often on the basis of 'confessions' obtained from other suspects, or on evidence virtually planted on them by infiltrators who are trained to draw them into conspiracies. If the suspect happens to reside in a civilized country, he can be abducted and 'rendered' to another country that has plenty of practice at torture. While much of what goes on is not constitutional, once a person is in the hands of US government agencies, legal considerations go out the window. What we have is a modern witch-hunt, complete with phony charges, state-sanctioned torture, and utter disregard for either law or morals. The neo-cons have erased centuries of blood-bought achievements in the realm of human rights, and returned humanity to the depravity of the Dark Ages. And like the original Dark Ages, the mainstream churches are complicit in the abuse of human rights-- either by their woeful silence, or worse, by their patriotic cheerleeding for the war on Islam (which is how many fundamentalists seem to view it).

By flaunting international law, and placing their interests above all others, the US administration has done a first-class job of putting America in the worst possible light. It's tragic that many Americans of good faith who abhor the record of their government are, nonetheless, painted by the same black brush. The once proud soaring eagle has been revealed a blood-splattered turkey vulture. The princes of darkness carry on in apparent ignorance of the basic spiritual law of the universe-- as you sow, you shall likewise reap. America will experience increasing calamities of all kinds, and there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth among millions who have never bothered to understand the flagrant transgressions of their leaders who bamboozled them with double-talk and lies for so long. As they start to awaken from their slumber, the deceived masses will not be happy. It will be very ugly.

May 4, 2007

Climate Change Heresy!

The subtitle could be 'Confessions of a former believer,' or something like that. You see, like most ordinary people, I love nature, the outdoors, and therefore, I was passionate about the need to reduce greenhouse gases (ie. 'carbon dioxide' per the current wisdom) and promote the Kyoto Accord. I was outraged that the USA refused to sign on to the Accord, and that Canada has been dragging its feet in meeting even minimal target reductions. Taking note of every scientific news story, I was ready to point out the melting of the polar ice-caps, the thawing of the permafrost, the spawning of stronger tropical storms, the increase in wildfires, floods, insect plagues, etc. etc. However... it bothered me that some legitimate scientists were, apparently, still not with the program, still saying this whole hysteria is a fraud. What was wrong with these people-- don't they appreciate this planet? Don't they realize that the future of our species may be at risk?

At this point in any polemical debate, one can do either of two basic things. One, you can tell yourself that 'it's obvious-- the other side is wrong, and must be defeated with louder shouts.' Or, two, you can take a step to the side, and have a look at their arguments to see if there could be any merit in them. Now, how many people take option two, generally speaking? Very few people dare to risk bursting their carefully constructed illusions, or confronting their cherished emotional investments. They retreat into further denial, and may become quite aggressive in attacking any affront to those strongholds of 'reason.' Clearly, though, if in fact, Truth is your main concern, regardless of whether it conforms to your world-view to this point, then you know you must honestly consider the opposite side of your position. If, after a sincere examination, you still believe in the correctness of your current views, then you have actually strengthened them by comparing them against counter-arguments that fall short of convincing. And if you should realize that the opposing arguments have merit and must be addressed, then you have gained new knowledge that is both useful and constructive in the over-riding quest for truth. In other words, there ought to be nothing to fear in considering both sides of every dilemma, and this should be taught throughout our schooling-- but rarely is.

With all that philosophy in mind, I decided it was high time to check out the claims of the global warming nay-sayers. Having just done so, I now have to reverse my position in the face of real science, as opposed to the propaganda that poses as science in the mainstream media (or 'MSM' for short). Strangely, the MSM have taken a long time to get on board the global warming bandwagon; but now co-opted, they are predominantly reporting the desired line that claims 'carbon emissions' are the vile culprit in causing global warming and they must be reduced at all costs. With Al Gore, Mr. Green, going around with his very powerful multimedia dog and pony show, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' millions of new believers are being added to the 'environmental faith' movement. Maybe Mr. Gore really believes his rhetoric; maybe he's fronting for some hidden cause. These days, absolutely nothing can be taken at face value, any more.

Well, what made this 'true believer' become a new heretic (yes-- here we go again!)? As I hinted above, the science speaks for itself-- if we'll just listen. In this essay, I don't want to attempt to regurgitate the great breadth of science that contradicts all the arguments of the 'carbon emissions' theory. That wouldn't be productive, and there are some excellent web sources that do a fine job of presenting the facts in accessible language. (For example, check out www.world-mysteries.com; and view the Google video 'The Great Global Warming Swindle.') What I would like to do here, is just raise a few points based on logic and experience, that put the carbon emissions theory into clear doubt. And to encourage every reader to put aside your preconceptions, and investigate it for yourself. Lastly, I want to speculate a bit on what is behind this headline, critical debate raging in our day.

Just visualize the layer of air surrounding this planet-- the atmosphere. It is a very thin layer relative to the size of the earth. (If the earth were the size of a basketball, the atmosphere would be something like a 1-centimeter layer around it, to aid your visualization.) In terms of heat capacity, air has roughly 1000 times less capacity than water to hold heat. We've all boiled water in a kettle or a pot on the stove. Imagine trying to raise the temperature of a pot of water... by heating the air above it. How much heating of the air do you think it would take? Exactly-- a hell of a lot! Yet that is essentially what the 'experts' are trying to tell us-- that the carbon dioxide in the air is causing the atmosphere to retain heat... and that heat is sufficient to cause the melting of polar ice, etc. Most of the ice that is melting is over water; and we know that most of that ice is actually under the water, with only a fraction above, in the air. So-- how can air that is slightly warmer than the historical mean be causing vast areas of ice to melt? And it's melting at a rate that surprises the scientists! The heat must be coming from the water, not the air! As we learn in school, the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases. Carbon dioxide is one of those trace gases, accounting for about 0.04% of the total. This minute proportion of gas is supposed to be causing enough retention of infrared solar radiation as to raise the mean temperature of the atmosphere by about one degree in the last hundred years. That one degree, we are told, is heating the oceans, the polar caps, and the earth's crust.

Part of Al Gore's presentation shows a very looong graph with two squiggly lines-- one indicating the concentration of CO2 in the air, the other tracking the mean temperature of the earth over 'thousands of years.' Gore is sarcastic in underscoring the obvious correlation between the two lines. Now, it is correct that the two lines move in correspondence; but-- what's the connection? He says it proves that CO2 causes global warming. Science says that global warming causes an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. If you look at the time scale, you'll see that the CO2 trace lags the air temp graph by several hundred years! In fact, the most important 'greenhouse gas' is water vapor; and vapor is released as the oceans are heated. Since water has 1000 times the heat capacity of air, it is not the air that is heating the water, but vice-versa. Without belaboring this point, I just want to note that the oceans are apparently being warmed from below... as indeed, so is the earth's crust, as in Siberia and the Canadian north. In conclusion, the earth is indeed, experiencing global warming; but, it is NOT being caused by human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.

What, then, is causing the earth to warm up internally? That is a very good question. So far, the scientists who disbelieve the carbon emission theory, are not fully agreed on an alternative theory, but the consistent factor in the historical periodicity of global warming is the sun, the source of light and heat for our solar system. Records indicate that the sun has been increasingly active over the past century, and is emitting greater energy in the form of coronal mass ejections and in magnetic field fluctuations. It turns out that these phenomena affect the amount of cosmic radiation striking the earth's surface, which in turn, influences the global temperature. So there appears to be a mechanism that could account for changes in the planet's average temperature. More study is necessary, and will be done. Sadly, it's getting very difficult for the 'carbon theory refusniks' to get funding for their research, since the powers that be have decided that the public must 'know' that global warming is due to their profligate emission of carbon dioxide into the air.

The question that then rears its persistent head demanding an answer is 'Why are we being fed with the powerful propaganda that 'we' are causing the problem that threatens the survival of the human race?' And the immediate subsidiary question: 'Who is behind this obvious fraud?' Those are provocative questions, and not easy ones. The usual place to begin is to ask 'who benefits from this fraud?' It's not very obvious. Certain industries (many) will suffer if serious efforts are made to limit carbon emissions... while others (a few) will benefit. The nuclear power industry, languishing after decades of suspicion in the wake of some high-profile disasters, is being promoted as the only sensible alternative to 'dirty energy.' Already the price of uranium is rising on the markets in anticipation of a boom to come.

But one of the main effects of the 'war against carbon' is less obvious to the common Western observer-- it is the impoverishment of the 'Third World,' particularly Africa. If poor countries are discouraged from exploiting their coal, petroleum, and forest resources as sources of energy, where does that leave them? Alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, are much more expensive than hydrocarbons. The war on global warming relegates the poorest regions of the world to continued, abject poverty and servitude to the wealthy nations. Even within the developed nations, it is well known that a quick reduction in carbon emissions would entail widespread and deep economic misery... but for whom? Of course, it would hit the poorest segment of the population hardest. Petroleum will become more expensive, meaning virtually all consumer products will have to increase in cost as transportation costs rise. Jobs will be lost as production from 'dirty industries' will have to decrease (at least in the adjustment period) and as companies cut corners to cover the cost of new technologies. Vehicles will become more expensive, as will all travel. The 'CO2 agenda' will certainly accelerate the widening of the gap between rich and poor... and that seems to be one of the objectives of this fraud.

I expect that time will reveal who is backing the war on carbon, and why. Meanwhile, it is truly frightening to see how a fraudulent idea, even in the realm of science-- which is supposed to be based on 'objective observation'-- can be promoted from a minority opinion into a public relations steamroller. This is a chilling demonstration of... what?-- the power of the media? Well, partly; but moreso the power of the shadowy individuals who control the media, and use it to make the masses think whatever these overlords want them to think. That is scary!

Yet there may be other, sinister motives behind this big carbon-dioxide scare. The powers behind the scenes are experts at reaping profits from any kind of instability, and this is another 'golden' opportunity for them. Also, keeping the public preoccupied with a 'natural' menace that creates a background level of constant tension supports efforts to control them. People are more amenable to the 'snake oil salesman' when they are already physically and mentally stressed. Another fuzzy, external, omnipresent threat to augment the 'terrorism threat' is ideal for those who are setting us up for the quick fix-- martial law, or some variation. There's another possibility: if the good folks can be convinced that the problem is 'local' (Earth-based) they will not be inclined to look towards the sun, either literally or figuratively, and the sun may be concealing the source of the problem. Did I mention that Mars and other planets in our cosmic neighborhood are also exhibiting signs of 'global warming' of their own? It's that observation that makes the whole picture very curious indeed. For if all the planets are experiencing some kind of energy disturbance, it would implicate, first of all, the sun. As to what is causing the sun's outbursts, it might be a periodic process (as geological records seem to support), or it may be related to the moving of the entire solar system into a different region of the galaxy, as some suggest. In any case, these planetary effects essentially rule out 'cosmic ray deflection' as an adequate explanation for climate change.

I spent a couple days pondering the question, 'Why do 'they' (TPTB) want us to blame atmospheric CO2 for the undeniable climate change taking place?' Then I caught a few minutes of a CBC TV news story on the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) meeting of May, 2007, and something jumped out at me. The story ended by showing computer animations of some proposals that were aired at the conference. The video showed a bunch of discs thrown up above the Earth, grouped tightly in orbit to reflect sunlight back into space. Then another image appeared of what looked like an aerosol spray, intended to do the same, while the voice over talked about some 'far-out ideas'. As soon as I saw the secondary effect of these far-out schemes, I was immediately struck by what the game really is, here. You see, if reflective devices were to be placed in orbit ostensibly to reduce the incident sunlight on the Earth's surface, they would also have the effect of screening our view of the sun. Why would 'they' want to obscure our view of the sun, you wonder? Well, I still remain somewhat skeptical regarding the 'Planet X' theory... BUT, the proponents claim that 'X' will soon be visible in the environs of the sun! Could it be that the conspirators do not want the vast majority of ordinary folk to see this phenomenon, and start connecting the dots? The dots in this case will sketch a picture of colossal deception aimed at keeping people blissfully ignorant of an impending global catastrophe, while the elite make elaborate preparations for their personal (and exclusive) survival.

Yes, it's an outrageous scenario, I agree. Yet, once again (as per '911' and the Iraq war) the media have been co-opted to paint black as white, a panel of 'international experts' has been assembled to do the artful persuasion, a high-profile shill is going around the world beating the drum to the grass-roots folks, and anyone who bucks the new, official voice of reason, is ridiculed, marginalized, and forced to use the alternative media. It has the paw-prints of the Illuminati all over it; and we have a plausible motive. I expect that things will continue to unfold rapidly. Climate change is the harbinger of momentous events just ahead of us. Earth has a date with destiny, and we are all invited, like it or not. Regardless of what our authorities do about carbon emissions, the heating of the planet will continue... and quickly.

We are truly living in interesting times... interesting as per the Chinese curse. Stay alert; but there's no point feeling guilty about the family SUV anymore.

May 1, 2007

The Root of Extremism

With the tragic, highlight events of the dawn of the 21st Century emblazoned on people's consciousness, it is easy to think of extremism as a religious and a foreign phenomenon. However, both assumptions are false.
Let's deal with the second issue first. Is extremism--in today's understanding--strictly something that exists 'out there', that is, beyond the borders of the 'North American' or 'developed' world?

Part of the problem is the question of degree. If we think of extremism as manifested in 'acts of terror,' then it's too easy to relegate the idea to shadowy, foreign sources--most likely clad in flowing robes, and having bushy, black beards. But, the real danger is in the mind-set of extremism--the kind of thinking that, given the right circumstances, results in extreme acts of violence. In my view, that mind-set is evident in every society, whether developed or developing, in narrow economic terms. It is, regrettably, all too evident even (or especially) in the ranks of the Christian community in the USA. Let me explain.

One statement to emerge from the last US presidential election (2004) was intended to be humorous... while packing a great deal of truth into a few phrases. It goes like this: "the reason that GW Bush won the election is that the Democrats erroneously believed that the most important issue was the engaging of the US in an illegal, unjustified, bloody war in Iraq over the need of greedy corporations for access to oil... while the Republicans correctly knew that the real issue was abortions and homosexuality." At first glance, this statement looks simply like a clever, political commentary; one that is both patently true and ironic. On looking deeper, it also exposes one of the more curious aspects of American religious fundamentalism.

Think about it. How does it happen that many people reading that statement can't see the irony at all, and are convinced that the latter were the overriding issues? In other words, how has it come about that ostensibly educated, 'modern' people in a so-called developed nation, are adamant that certain sexual practices represent a bigger threat than an immoral war that has cost thousands of needless American deaths and many thousands of Iraqi deaths? Isn't that essentially the same as Moslems believing that insulting the Koran is a crime worthy of a 'fatwa' (death decree)? How has the Western world become so blind, lost so much perspective, 'taken leave of its senses' (to use that flowery Victorian phrase)? For let's be serious; is the prospect of two males or two females engaging in sexual conduct so heinous as to eclipse the horror of modern warfare, with its phosphorus explosives, smart bombs, depleted-uranium shells, weapons of mass destruction, etc., etc.?

To the liberal mind (or indeed, I'd argue, the impartial thinker), the answer is an obvious 'no way!' Yet, to the far-right, conservative way of thinking, the immediate response is 'of course!' An objective person has to ask 'where do the conservatives get their response?' One could point to 'holy scripture' which, again, is basically the same source of Islamic extreme ideas. Then what is it about religious scripture that leads its readers to conclude that certain matters of sexual morality are more important, and their infraction more horrific and of greater consequence, than the exercise of mass murder-- which we have given the convenient label of 'war'? When stated in such monochromatic terms, I hope the situation becomes much more discernible.

But to return to the basic question: where do religionists derive this notion of sexual propriety over everything else? In truth, if one reads the Christian scriptures carefully, one is hard pressed to reach any such conclusion. Sure, the New Testament warns against sexual immorality; but it hardly makes a fuss about it, and certainly doesn't place sexual sins in any greater status than any other sins. If one decides to include the Old Testament, the scripture of the Israelites (whom we now call, rather loosely, Jews) then we might have more ammunition. In elaborating on the Ten Commandments, the books of Moses do inveigh heavily against 'fornication,' homosexuality, incest, and other sexual perversions. And the prescribed penalties for these crimes was usually pretty stiff, up to death by stoning. Why Christians continue to attach the Old Testament scriptures to their own, superceding holy writ is a big question that deserves a substantial answer that is outside the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that for historical reasons, the Christian church(es) adopted the Jewish canon as an integral part of their own.

Altho I must confess ignorance of the contents of the Koran (or Quran) it seems more than likely to me that this book, too, simply does not elevate one category of fleshly sins as being more heinous than any other. Certainly, it would not assign sexual sins as more reprehensible than murder. Yet, again, a significant segment of Islamic adherents believe that nonsense (as demonstrated in their harsh treatment of 'adulterers'-- usually female, of course). More troubling among Moslems, though, is that plenty of them believe that those who transgress any of the tenets of Islam are deserving of death. To this element, suicide for the sake of the cause is not only justified but merits martyr status. While moderate Muslims question the violence espoused by the extremists as unsupported by the Koran, the fringe are always oblivious to such appeals to their ostensible authority.

So, the extreme elements of either Christianity or Islam have concluded that certain behaviors are more sinful than others, and worse, that correcting those errors can justify any punishment, up to and including death. This is a great face for religionists of any stripe to display to an on-looking and increasing secular (irreligious) world! Is that what these religions really teach? Well, yes and no. No, the scriptures do not single out certain behaviors as so awful as to require aggressive eradication; (definitely not the teachings of Christ, in any case.) And no, the present-day, official stance of the mainstream churches and mosques is to denounce violence as a solution to bad behavior. Yet... there are certain sects among Islam, Christianity, and Judaism that reserve the right to resort to extreme methods to enforce morality as they define it. And even within any given mainstream religion, there are always certain individuals who have decided that the official position is far too 'soft' on crime, and that God 'demands punishment' of whatever happen to be their favorite perversions.

Now where do these religionists who hold extreme views get them? One can postulate all kinds of psycho-babble, but in the end, the answer is legalism. What is legalism? It is the inculcated paradigm that we must all perform within strictly defined boundaries in order to keep God satisfied with the human race and with individuals. Those defined boundaries can be very narrow and often enforced with incredible harshness. The record of history as illustrative of legalism is a sorry one, indeed. Think of the Inquisitions of the Dark Ages; incarceration of petty thieves in mediaeval Europe; public floggings and beheadings for various misdemeanors; and so on. But note something else; the legalism that has infected and distorted religion has also carried over into what we call the secular (non-religious) world. Conservatives and legalism seem to fit together like a hand in glove. For in the fear-based conservative mind, everyone is judged on behavior, and 'bad behavior'--as they define it--is deserving of punishment. That punishment is sanctioned by God, for the religionists, or else by the state, for the legalistic secularists. Ironically, there's little difference between them; the church-goers eagerly join hands with the government when they see an opportunity to achieve their ends. This common cause of legalism answers the first part of my opening question--is extemism peculiar solely to religion?

Of course, secularism is a recent, modern phenomenon, since the world up until the 'Enlightenment' era, made little material distinction between the religious and non-religious realms. There was only 'one world under God' for most societies, until scientific materialism came along in Europe. Such was the overarching influence of religion in previous times that today's Western populaces, even religious folk, could hardly imagine it. We continue to see examples of such religious states today, notably in the Islamic countries (though even tiny Tibet was a Buddhist state before being invaded by the People's Republic of China). These present-day religious nations are, for the most part, sad testimonies of the glories of godliness. They tend to be strict, authoritarian regimes, brooking no opposition to their rule, and dealing harshly with crime, especially with that age-old whipping-boy, sexual offences. They are particularly repressive of women, although this fact is always disguised as 'protecting womanhood.' There's probably not one religious regime anywhere in the world that the ultra-conservatives of the American 'religious right' would honestly care to call home.

Yet, back in America, the religious right call for restrictions on homosexuals, making abortions illegal, banning 'pornography' (as they may define it) and stiffer penalties for 'perverts' of various kinds. At the same time, they see no problem with sending US troops to a far-away country they can't find on a map, to topple a dictator their government once actively supported, and to find weapons that didn't exist. They don't have a problem with that warped patriotism, nor with the spilling of 'collateral blood' of innocent Iraqi civilians... since in their minds, all Arabs are potential terrorists, and all terrorists deserve to die. The notion of state-directed terrorism is a nuance that flies over their primitive consciousness. While eagerly supporting American terrorism abroad, the religious folk seem to have no interest in using that military might to end the suffering of the people of Darfur, in southern Sudan. Just as they let the US sit on its hands during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, so they are satisfied to ignore the situation in Darfur in 2005. Why is that? Because those African countries are of no 'strategic' (read commercial) value, being peopled by poor blacks and possessing no exploitable resources, perhaps?

Enough legalists cast their vote in the last US election that they managed to squeeze their moral leader into the White House for another bloody term of office. They felt justified that their man was in agreement with them and opposed gay rights, and abortion. Now the 'free world' would be a decent, safe place for law-abiding folk. There's a lot wrong with this naive picture, but let's just consider two. First, it appears that the religious folk, like the mass of Americans, have become so inured to the constant depictions of violence on their viewing screens (TV, movie theatres, video-games) that they no longer even think of it as a perversion to be opposed. At least, not until the USA itself becomes a scene of violent attack. So, while they howl against 'homos,' they have little serious compassion for the suffering going on in Iraq, Afganistan, Darfur, and so on. Second, by his stubbornly misguided decisions, their man in DC has certainly not made the world either more decent, or safer! By persisting in justifying their illegal and immoral foreign policies, the present administration is simply goading the extremists, and worse, supplying them with useful propaganda in their efforts to recruit more martyrs. As for decency, is it more decent to persecute individuals born with an unorthodox sexual nature, or to accept them as children of God who need special understanding? By every measure, the religious bigots in and out of the White House have made a mockery of the faith they claim to believe in, and in the process have set the world on a very dangerous path for the future. In attempting to enforce their childish, legalistic views on society, the extremists of every religion simply make the notion of religion repulsive to the unbelieving... while being counterproductive to any lasting solutions to the ills of society.

What will these 'religious' folk say to their God when He enquires about their obvious inconsistent sense of morality on Judgement Day?

The Omar Khadr Saga

The CBC radio program, The Current, raised some very serious concerns in the case of Omar Khadr, the child soldier detained in the American prison at Guantanamo. The host made the point that, at the time of his capture, Khadr was a child, as recognized by Canada and by international law. The unstated premise is that the USA holds itself above international law... except, of course, when it suits their goals to pay it lip service.

If Khadr had killed someone in Canada or in the USA, in a street crime, he would have been treated as a young offender and received a corresponding sentence that would, likely, have seen him released from a youth detention center after a few years. Instead, he had the misfortune to be involved with a group labelled as 'terrorist' by the American government. Despite his youth, he was incarcerated in the notorious Gitmo, and is now facing the possibility of a death sentence in a trial system that meets few, if any, of the standards that a citizen of the civilized world is entitled.

And that raises the point that Khadr is not some foreigner, but a citizen of Canada. If our country really has any respect for the values described in our constitution, our government should be making every attempt to ensure that he gets the same treatment as any accused person in Canada. Instead, the Canadian government, whether Liberal or Conservative, seems quite indifferent to the plight of one of our nationals, and fully willing to defer to the insane lawlessness that prevails in the USA under the Bush administration.

Despite what our western governments have been promoting, the fact is that there is no difference between acts of so-called terrorism and any other criminal act. Are we supposed to be more fearful of the prospect of a bomb exploding on Yonge Street than of being gunned down by gang members in the same place? Nonsense!

The whole Khadr affair highlights the absurdities in the fabricated, paranoid war on terror foisted on us by a hubristic, American regime. If Khadr is ever eventually released, you can be sure he will not be won over to the Western view of life after the vile treatment he has received at the hands of both American and Canadian authorities, who speak hypocritically about human rights while abrogating them when it suits their agenda. If we want the privilege of preaching to other nations, we have to be willing to live by highest standards, not the lowest common factors.