Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on tax breaks…

I think the term ‘tax break’ can be misleading. When you think about it, any tax break ‘costs’ the government that amount of money. It equates to a loss of income generated. It’s not free. Therefore, you could say that in essence, a tax break is just another type of spending bill. When it comes to creating jobs, currently there seems to be two primary options on the table….spend that amount of money to create jobs right now (infrastructure), or give away that amount of money via tax breaks in hopes that it will stimulate job growth at some point down the line.

As we all know, the government already spends more than it brings in. Giving out tax breaks seems counter-productive unless you are certain that those tax breaks will equate to more money coming in than the tax break itself costs. Also, it’s a lot easier to give a tax break than it is to take one back. You better be sure it’s going to work before employing it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What is Obama up to…

Torture and the Law

Compiled by Vienna Colucci, November 2001

What is torture?

Torture cannot be defined by a list of prohibited practices. Human rights treaties define it in a number of different ways, reflecting the different contexts in which they were drafted and the purposes of each particular treaty.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984 and entered into force on June 26, 1987.

It defines torture as any act by which:

severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:

  • obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession
  • punishing him/her for an act she/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed
  • intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person
  • or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind;

when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

What is ill treatment?

It is impossible to draw a clear dividing line between ''torture'' and other ''cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.? Whether an act of ill treatment constitutes torture depends on a number of factors, including the nature and severity of the abuse. Both torture and ill treatment are prohibited in all circumstances by international law.

In times of international armed conflict, ill treatment (described as "inhuman treatment'' and ''willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health' in the Geneva Conventions) are prohibited and criminalized as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. These grave breaches are also incorporated in the jurisdiction of the Yugoslavia Tribunal and of the International Criminal Court.

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits ''violence to life and person,'' in particular ''mutilation, cruel treatment and torture'' and also prohibits ''outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment''. These terms include ''other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment." The drafters of common Article 3 avoided a detailed list of prohibited acts in order to ensure that it had the broadest possible reach, leaving no loophole. As the official commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross explained:

''It is always dangerous to go into too much detail -- especially in this domain. However great the care taken in drawing up a list of all the various forms of infliction, it would never be possible to catch up with the imagination of future torturers who wished to satisfy their bestial instincts; the more specific and complete a list tries to be, the more restrictive it becomes. The form of wording adopted is flexible, and, at the same time, precise.''

Every act of torture is a crime under international law.

  • If torture is committed in an armed conflict, it constitutes the war crime of torture.
  • If torture is committed as part of a systematic or a widespread pattern of similar acts, it constitutes the crime against humanity of torture.
  • The Convention against Torture prohibits torture as an independent crime, as a war crime, and as a crime against humanity, absolutely and in all circumstances.
  • The Geneva Conventions prohibit the war crime of torture in both international wars and internal conflicts such as civil wars or rebellions.
  • The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court prohibits torture when it constitutes genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime.

Are there exceptions to the prohibition against torture?

No. Article 2(2) of the Convention states that: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

The prohibition of torture has a special status in international law. It is part of customary international law, which means it is binding on all states, whether or not they have ratified any of the international human rights treaties.

The prohibition on torture is also a ''peremptory norm,'' which means that it cannot be overruled by any other law or by local custom.

May the United States extradite a person to a country where she/he might face torture?

No. Article 3.1 of the Convention against Torture states that: "No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

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People complain because of Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay facility. Why would he do such a thing?

People complain because Obama is having Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried in conventional court instead of a military tribunal. Why would he do such a thing?

Could it be because it’s so easy to cross the line when no one is watching, when there are no real witnesses? Is Obama trying to hold us to a higher standard? Is that bad?

I wonder if Jesus would be for or against these changes?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The trouble with the law…

…is you may forget about grace. Still, no matter what anyone tells you, though our ultimate destiny is not determined by keeping the law, we are still commanded to follow the law. Right? Remember what Jesus said?

Matthew 5:18…“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Loving God and loving your neighbor is commanded.

Matthew 22: 36-40…"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

You might say that all the other commands are included in those two.

Romans 13:8-10…Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus tells us that we are his disciples if we DO what he commands.

John 13:35…By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

John 15:14…You are my friends if you do what I command.

James speaks about faith without works being dead.

James 2: 14-17…What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The list goes on and on.

All that said, though, we must not forget that Jesus didn’t come only to teach. He also came to die, and He did so out of love and obedience. He did so to save us. Faith without works may be useless, but works of the law won’t save you (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus saves. He is that foundation we build on (1 Corinthians 3:11). Our obligation is to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). As our Lord, we should want to please Him…we should want to follow His commands. If our life doesn’t in some way testify to our having a relationship with him, then it is quite likely that we fool ourselves and the truth is not in us. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Simple Truth…

Matthew 22:36-40…"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

What’s interesting to me about this scripture is how the two commands are similar/circular. If you ask the questions, how can I love God, how can I show my love for God, how can I prove to God that I love Him, scripture answers it by saying that your love for God is revealed by following His commands. What is His most important command other than loving Him? Loving one another. So, in reality, to show your love for God, you are commanded to love your neighbor as yourself….THAT is showing your love for God. And notice, the command isn’t just to love your neighbor….it’s to love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, putting their importance, and their needs, on the same level as yours. It’s like sharing yourself with the world. Instead of being this little self contained entity, this center of the universe thing, you become part of all of humanity. Love is a spreading out of yourself…a giving up of yourself. He who is least is the greatest. He who is greatest is the servant of all. (Mark 9:35, Mark 10:33)

Matthew 7:12…So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

John 14:21…Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

John 15:10…If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

John 13:34…"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:35…By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Romans 13:8…Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

1Peter 1:22…Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1John 3:11…This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1John 3:23…And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1John 4:7…Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1John 4:11…Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1John 4:12…No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

2John 1:5…And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

1 Peter 4:10…Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

Matthew 25:34-40…"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ "Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ "The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Is the love that is in you, finding its way out?