Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why the U.S.A. should not use torture

Either we are a nation that is conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, or we are just another nation that justified whatever it wants to do by "reasons of state."

Either we mean what we say, or we say it and don't mean it. By
my reckoning, that is what a hypocrite does.

If torture was sure, or the only way to get information from an enemy, the arguments of the the statists make might make sense. But torture is not sure. As John McCain said, a victim of torture will say anything he thinks the torturers want to hear, true or false. And the experience of the British in WWI and WWII shows that there are equally effective ways of getting information that do not involve torture and are far more likely to get good information.

So it isn't sure, and it isn't reliable, and there are better methods. How can we justify it?

Finally, there are risks in any situation when one faces an antagonist that is a fanatic. No matter what you do, such an enemy may still do harm. So we can torture and still be subject to terrorist attacks, or we can use other methods and still be subject to terrorists attacks. We will be subject to such attacks in any case. There is no way to guarantee we will be safe from all terrorist attacks. The only question open to us is, what kind of people are we going to be as we fight our enemies. Will we be what we have always claimed to want to be, an indivisible nation under God, with liberty and justice for all? Or will we become as deceitful and treacherous as our enemies?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scholarship banquet

On Thursday, our local scholarship foundation gave $1000 scholarships to 74 high school seniors. This was our 25th annual awards banquet. There was a video featuring every scholarship recipient, a medal to wear with their graduation robes, and a book featuring their pictures and a brief biography.

Every senior who graduates from Onslow County schools can earn a $1000 scholarship if they
--maintain at least a B+ average (88 or better)
--scores a composite score of at least 1200 on the SAT
--performs 100 hours of community service

In the last 25 years, we have awarded more than 1000 scholarships for at total of more than $1,000,000.

One of our associate superintendents was in the first class to receive scholarships, and one of our principals in the second.

Congratulations to all our scholarship winners!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sri Lanka

News of the final collapse of the Tamil Tiger guerrilla movement led me to post about General Lee's sword. I hope, now that the Sri Lankan government has managed to destroy this bloodthirsty insurrection and kill its leader, they will now display wisdom equal to their military skill.

The Tamil minority in Sri Lanka have legitimate grievances. Those grievances allowed the Tamil Tigers to get support from the Tamil minority. If the victorious government will make a few concessions that will allow the Tamils to feel that their grievances are being heard and attended to, it is likely that the civil war can end permanently. But if the grievances are not attended to, it will only be a matter of time before a new charismatic leader arises, and the whole bloody process begins again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The USA's wonderful luck

In our history, the United States has been fortunate to have some extraordinarily remarkable leaders.

George Washington could have made himself King of America. He could have created a virtual lifetime Presidency. He chose not to. I am convinced that one of the reasons our government has lasted so long and so successfully is that it started out with such a remarkable man as a leader.

Even our tragedies have had shining moments. Someone you don't think of as a graceful politician is Ulysses S. Grant, but he had one moment of truly supreme statesmanship.

When he and Gen. Robert E. Lee met at Appomattox Court House, Lee wore his dress sword, a gilded one presented to him by the ladies of Richmond, which he expected to have to present to General Grant. The surrender of the sword of a defeated commander is one of the most enduring ceremonies in history. To accept the sword is normal. To refuse the sword is condescending. Either would have humiliated Lee, who would have been portrayed forever as handing that sword to Grant, with Grant either grandly accepting or grandly refusing it.

But Grant did neither.

Instead, he inserted in the terms of surrender the clause that the surrender of the weapons of the army would not include the side arms of the officers. Meaning that neither Lee nor any of his other officers would have to turn over their swords to their conquerors. They would bear them home, to hand to their posterity as a sign of their valor, and the chivalry of their opponents. Lee did not even have to offer his sword. Neither man mentioned it at all.

I think it is significant that, on the night following the surrender, before the formal disbanding of the army, Lee was approached by a group of his younger officers. They wanted to go into the mountains and swamps of the south and begin a guerrilla war against the Union, a war, that had Robert E. Lee led it, would probably have lasted for many years, devastated the south, and permanently embittered relations between the sections.

But Lee, standing there with his presentation sword still on his hip, refused, saying he was too old to go out and become a guerrilla. He later called upon the members of his army to go home and become good citizens. I am convinced that part of this willingness to forgive without bitterness came from the fact that General Grant had treated him and his fellow officers with such tact. The character of General Lee is widely admired. The character of General Grant also deserves to be admired. He was a bad politician, but a good man

Friday, May 8, 2009

Betsy Magill, poet and nurse, has died

Betsy died Wednesday of COPD. She was a wonderful poet, with a delicate sense of the power and rightness of words. Last year, she published a chapbook of her best poems.

Here is one of them that expresses how I feel:


How cruel lace looks
on loneliness
white against stark black
when the poverty of grief is insulted
with abundance
just give me
one hand
one shell
one open flower
the intimacy of rain
one more

Despite all I can do, I cannot get this poem to format as she has it, for she does not use even lines, but I hope you will get some idea of her work from it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Poetry and wounded warriors: follow-up

I learned from the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Lejeune that the proposal for a workshop by Marty Silverthorne was circulated, but got no response. I am sorry, as I thought it would be very beneficial. But the men are the best judges of what their needs are.

I will now approach the Mayor's Committee for the Handicapped to see if they are interested.

new air conditioner

I cool my house with two window A/C units, as it has no ductwork for a household unit. One unit cools the back of the house, and the other the front.

The one in the back is about 8 years old, and when I tested it this week, the fan did not start up. I replaced it today with a new Westinghouse. My friend Ed came over and gave me a hand getting it into place. It is about the same size as the old unit, but slightly more powerful. One thing about it: the filter is very easy to clean, as it just slides out.


About Me

Jacksonville, N.C., United States
Retired teacher, motorcyclist, member of the Patriot Guard Riders, the Christian Motorcyclists Association, and the Moto Guzzi National Owners Club.