Friday, April 25, 2008

Is torture an "Eternal Sin"?

The thought has passed through my mind all to often lately, building up through the last few years.

Torture is after all, deliberately and with malice, attempting to someone's spirit. Not in a metaphoric, but in a literal sense.

Via Wikipedia "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Book of Matthew 12:30-32)

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fundamentalist, and I am a christian only in the same sense that Jefferson was a christian, in that I think Christ had a great deal of wisdom to impart.

Among that wisdom however was that - to blaspheme against the Spirit, is an unforgivable sin. Whether you are someone such as myself that respects many religions, or a Christian Fundamentalist, it seems to me that if one gives any weight to a divine spark in the human soul whatsoever, that to torture is by definition to blaspheme against it.

To torture.
To condone torture.
To permit torture.
To not speak out against torture.

All these are in some degree, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Yet we have somehow permitted ourselves to be saddled with a government whose interests lie in defining some 'magic line', in which breaking a persons spirit is allowed, if only we can do it with leaving bodily marks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Can we starve Their Beast?

It's a long supported conservative meme, to "Starve The Beast" - to so reduce the government in terms of taxes and cash that it cannot effectively finance liberal programs.

And they have done a rather good job of it in the last few years. The Budget is not broken, but it *is* at an all time high, even accounting for changes in GDP. The war in Iraq has done a very good job of dispersing the funds on hand before they were used for some other purpose - and given the political sieve through which businesses were sifted, it looks as though a large percentage of those funds were in fact funneled back into conservative accounts, whether legally, via contracts (whether bid, or all to often, channeled to specific companies), and one suspects that a large percentage of the "Missing money" that has disappeared may well be brought back into circulation having passed through conservative hands.

Financially, conservative reserves should be riding high. But they don't actually seem to be - McCain is not getting the financial support he should be getting from a large well of conservative financial backing. That may change in the general election, but as of yet, he's hardly pulling in donations in large amounts.

Which would seem, to me, to indicate that they are actually much weaker financially than one would expect. I'm not sure as to why - it seems counter-intuitive to me, given the level of war-profiteering that has occurred, but if there is a deep well of conservative financial power out there, the cause doesn't seem to be tapping it.

So, my question is, can that financial well, however deep it is, be tapped out? The fact of the matter is that consumer money seems to me to be in large part in the hands of those 'Liberal Elitists'. 'Liberal' organizations like public radio are almost defined by being able to get funds by getting small amounts in large numbers, by people that find NPR useful. I donate $5.00 a month to NPR, the EFF, and the ACLU, via automatic bank transfers (Because I'm lazy, and having it initiated from my bank gives me absolute control over whether I choose to change amounts or timing for whatever reason.)

It is conservative organizations, like AEI, National Review, etcetera that are typically kept afloat by large donations from a few wealthy groups. They collect together a group of intelligent conservatives that can get together to fight the intellectual battles in the form of a 'respected thinktank' . The thinktanks in turn churn out white papers that, however badly reasoned, can be used to justify bad government policies, which in turn often channels money back into conservative causes.

It seems to me that these are actually the greatest point of vulnerability in the conservative cycle. Not all conservatives support them, they tend to get their funds through a few specific channels, they produce nothing that is advantageous to anyone *but* the idealogues, but they are absolutely critical in the cycle that maintains conservative groupthink.

In a more general way, I would like to reduce the conservative financial reserves. Every liberal dollar spent at Wal-Mart is a donation to helping keep unions from forming freely. Every Dollar spent at Costco is a donation to making it clear that companies can be competitive while treating their employees well - and it turns out I save money over buying at Wal-mart as well.

But changing retailers is the easiest way to do so - I have to actually go online or walk into the store to buy from Costco or Wal-mart. I've even been sneaky and bought memberships for conservative relatives, knowing they'll go there when convenient, and it has to help.

What other, simple habits can be done that, if done by enough people, will slowly drain the coffers of the conservative movement.


One rule really - It needs to be a habit, automated. I go to Costco First - not Walmart. I donate $15 a month to my three causes because I can set it up automatically - I'm way too lazy to go to the effort of actually filling out a check for five bucks every month. And when I donate to Barack, I will do it exactly the same way.

So it can't be something that requires having information at your fingertips at all times. If I'm looking at a microwave, I'm making a decision based on whether GE or Panasonic has features I like, not on whether GE supported Bush and Panasonic supported Kerry.

Nor is it a (for instance) a boycott - a boycott is something done to stop a specific action by a company. When the company quits doing it, you quit boycotting.

This is done for a more general purpose - I want to drive Richard Mellon Scaife to bankruptcy and make the AEI do a pledge drive for funds. I don't want there to be *money* to do "Expelled II - Ben Stein takes on Continental Drift".

How can we do this, in a set of simple ways, for your average, lazy, liberal by habit person but works 8-10 hours a day and is *tired* at the end of the day person to do.