Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DOJ Had Prosecuted Texas Sheriff For Waterboarding Prisoners

In 1983, the Justice Department prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies for waterboarding prisoners to get them to confess to crimes. The deputies were sentenced to four years in prison and the sheriff got a 10-year sentence. Yet that case is not cited in the “torture” memos DOJ released that authorized the CIA to waterboard detainees.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

None Dare Call It Sadism

Death In Torture poster print

Oh, that's a fine way of puttin' it, Pegeen! Via HuffPo

On ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," George Will echoed several Bush officials when he criticized the release of the memos, saying "The problem with transparency is that it's transparent for the terrorists as well." Will expressed concern about the cost of letting "the bad guys" know what techniques, such as waterboarding, will be used on them. He went on to add, as noted by HuffPost's Jason Linkins, that "intelligent people of good will" believe the President of the United States can do whatever he wants to "defend the country."

Peggy Noonan went even further, articulating a position that upends George Santayana's famous quote: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

"Some things in life need to be mysterious," said Noonan, adding, "Sometimes you need to just keep walking."

She also added:

"It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that."
Oh, dear Peggy and fellow-traveling moral failures; it's not the documents that are the problem - it's the torture. Or did you think that there was some doubt as to what was going on? The knowledge, as the White House put out, was out there. Techniques and all.

As I stated a few days ago, the practice of torture makes little sense in terms of intelligence or security, but as a means of social control and as a recreational activity, it makes perfect sense.

Taddyporter writing at Bitch, PhD comes close:

[I]t seems to me the whole torture/don't torture debate is fundamentally misinformed.

Torture is an instrument of terror.

Permit me to repeat. Torture is an instrument of terror. Conducted by officers of the state, its state terror.

It's purpose is to terrorize the torturee, the torturer, the community from which the tortured is drawn, and, most importantly, the community from which the torturer is drawn.

Torture is not intended to extract information. Its intended to extract confession. Its intended to exact submission. Its intended to cow, to intimidate, to humiliate. Its intended to ensnare us all in the crimes of the regime. Its intended to plant a feeling of helplessness in the occupied population. Its intended to divide the occupied population into informants and informers. Its intended to demonstrate the complete power of the regime to dispose of people in any way they wish. Its intended to terrorize the population the regime fears most; us.

Do not be confused. All this blather about how torture is needed to compel captured al-Qaeda to spill the beans on their super-secret plans for murder and mayhem is absolute horseshit.

We know that few of the captives held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and the CIA black sites are, in fact, al-Qaeda. Most of them are people swept up in pacification sweeps for being out after curfew, or whose papers were not in order, or who were denounced by informants, probably as payback for some quarrel. They could not be compelled to give information about al-Qaeda plans because they had no information.
They could be compelled to confess. They could be compelled to infect their communities with terror.

And if you think the community the regime wished to terrorize was the Iraqi nation or the Afghan nation, think again.
Indeed. You should think again, and you should re-think any unexamined assumptions or principles you may have that would lead you to accept the rationalizations of torture. You see, while the above is correct - it is state terrorism - that is also beside the point. The important thing here is who controls the state, by what means they gained control, and to what end do they think that effort will profit them. What tactics and ideals do you see most commonly exemplified from the grassroots upward?

To be blunt, it's authoritarianism, the celebration of the domination and degradation of the weaker by the stronger, the basest and most destructive human motives re-cast into a sociopolitical philosophy that is sometimes called NeoConservatism . But the words and the rhetoric do not matter, for they are made a mock by the evident truth:

The means, the ends and the fallout have been equally well documented in history and literature. The sum of it is "no good can come of this."

It is not in your interest or in mine, not in the interest of your children or your neighbors, to accept this all-too present future.

And yet, every single decade, another crop of Great Leaders comes to the fore to try and disprove the premise, at least for a time. Since no sensible, sane person working from either an ethical OR a purely utilitarian perspective would advise anyone to build a nation or a legacy in this way, it's clear that the flawed and fatal process has an overwhelming appeal in spite of the obvious. It must be some very primal force. You would think someone would just say it.

But it seems that none dare call it sadism.

Nonetheless, it is. Both directly and vicariously. When you water-board someone over one hundred times, and they are able to give you no more information than they had given before being water-boarded for the first time, it's for the sheer, sadistic fun of it.

And as you can see, sadism is fun, as documented on in 2006.

ABC News has obtained two new photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showing Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harmon posing over the body of a detainee who was allegedly beaten to death by CIA or civilian interrogators in the prison's showers. The detainee's name was Manadel al-Jamadi. Mark Rothschild writes about the details of this poor man's death.

Oh, one may rationalize torture and abuse in many ways. One may, for instance, excuse it as a means by which one may actually break and reform the person, to make a brainwashed slave. Citations of "Stockholm Syndrome" are bandied around.

But it's all bullshit. Brainwashing, meta-programming and mind control were - and the CIA is very expert on this - blind alleyways leading to nightmarish blowback. The CIA knows better.

Torture is not a good way to gain intelligence, nor is it a terribly effective tool for "turning" an agent. Even if it were, when a person is known to be held and subsequently released they are likely to be suspected as an agent. Trust me, there is a great deal known about torture-enhanced brainwashing, interrogation and mind control. It's simply not an effective way of creating a reliable follower with the capability of acting independently and without direct supervision. The Manchurian Candidate was either a cautionary tale or a wet dream - depending on your point of view - but it did not prove out in practice, though there are many hints, much hearsay and even declassified documents to suggest that a large number of people who should have known better tried very hard to make it a reality. No doubt they still are.

None of this is secret. Nor are any of the techniques used for torture. "Water boarding" itself has been used in various forms for two or three thousand years. One form - The Swirly - is a favorite with grade-school bullies. The strong and sociopathic have always found it amusing to degrade and half-drown the weaker and better. And you can find no more pure manifestation of this mindset - and the society in which those who wish to become powerful and "socially significant" must learn to thrive - than Jr. High.

And so long as bullying is allowed to thrive in our schools, so long as "boys will be boys" and "girls will be girls" is permitted to be an explanation for recreational sadism on playgrounds and schools, the very worst of us will always triumph over the very best, for they look out for their own, while carefully tending the breeding grounds of future victims.

The worst fear of the American Right is that Obama will implement some form of "re-education" programs that teach values contrary to their own bible-thumping, baby-beating, authoritarian and eliminationist "family values."

I think that their worst fear should be implemented - and without waiting for Obama.

The first step is for people with an ethical view of civilization to retake the arts, crafts and structures of education - and they must keep it. Nor must any institution that teaches children that "winners" are actually BETTER than "lusers" be permitted to continue.

I'm by no means saying that competition is bad. But children must be taught that success and failure are both good things in their way, and that all people are valuable, as much because of their differences as due to their similarities.

I have come to believe that we need a radical transformation in our imagination as to what civilization can be and - far more importantly - for whom it exists. Currently, all of society and culture exists to serve the ambitions, lusts and needs of those at the very top of the pyramid; with everyone else being assigned a "value" in accordance to their utility toward meeting those needs. Not only are individuals neglected and discarded; entire races, nations and continents have been arbetrarily designated as strip mines and toxic waste dumps, simply because none of "the people who matter" come from those places.

I say that it should be obvious that pandering to the interests of less than 5% of the human race at the direct expense of the rest of us is a mug's game. Collectively, creatively, non-violently, but gently and relentlessly, we must resist - and communicate the need for that resistance as widely as possible.

So long as there are large numbers of human beings living in poverty, in daily fear, concerned about the most basic necessities of life, we will all suffer oppression in the name of keeping those desperately poor people from resorting to acts of desperation. It should be clear by now that the oppression itself makes resistance and defiance inevitable, and you would think that after several thousand years of history, we would have grasped the essential lesson - that the oppression generates it's own justifications.

We now have the technology, the resources and the tools to ensure that every single human being on the planet has secure access to the basic necessities of life. We can ensure it, we can afford it and that one simple thing will inevitably unleash a mind boggling amount of creativity which will of course translate into greater prosperity.

Ultimately, those who have the talent to foster and manage wealth will become far more wealthy then even now, though it may not be measured so much in terms of their ability to crush or advance the fortunes of others, there will certainly be enough rewards out there for all - so long as we can at least statistically resist the darker urge to proper at the expense of others, rather than the far more effective strategy to prosper by enlarging the fortunes of all.

The need to do this is urgent. We simply cannot afford to have such a high proportion of the human race wasted on survival-level concerns.

For whatever reasons, the climate of the planet is shifting and no area will be able to isolate itself from the impact. Huge population shifts will occur; the areas best suited for food production are going to shift, global trade routes are changing - and it's all too easy to see nations, peoples and corporations positioning themselves to exploit the "unavoidable" misery about to occur.

The idea that such misery is, in fact "unavoidable" is absolute bullshit. As a species and as a global civilization - for that is a matter of practical reality - we have a simple and stark choice.

We can choose to devolve into small clusters of squabbling apes competing for diminishing resources - or we can choose to survive as a species, with the pragmatic determination that we are not wise enough to know what traits and talents will be needed for as yet unforseen challenges.

I know where my advantage lies. It differs from the advantage of those who are yammering at you that we cannot afford to not torture, to not invest in regieme change, who tell you that we cannot afford to trust individuals with their own life choices. The rhetoric and threats vary from the left to the right of the political spectrum, but it all boils down to a subliminal panic amoung the elietes that they are losing their grip upon the the information flow and the decision making process of people in general.

Glenn Greenwald, among others, has been relentless in documenting examples of this, but it's difficult to think of an example less subtle than this.

The New York Times' David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Barstow uncovered. Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow's exposés:

Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.

By whom were these "ties to companies" undisclosed and for whom did these deeply conflicted retired generals pose as "analysts"? ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox -- the very companies that have simply suppressed the story from their viewers. They kept completely silent about Barstow's story even though it sparked Congressional inquiries, vehement objections from the then-leading Democratic presidential candidates, and allegations that the Pentagon program violated legal prohibitions on domestic propaganda programs. The Pentagon's secret collaboration with these "independent analysts" shaped multiple news stories from each of these outlets on a variety of critical topics. Most amazingly, many of them continue to employ as so-called "independent analysts" the very retired generals at the heart of Barstow's story, yet still refuse to inform their viewers about any part of this story.

I no longer consider any of the networks to be a primary source - and I hold reservations about the rest of the MSM. Nor are my reservations particularly new. Their coverage has always been suspect, but without access to the raw data and the ability for individuals to gain accesss to a global marketplace of ideas in which even linguistic barriers are falling, we need not rely upon them. Increasingly, we do not.

But the stories we are not told, the information that is not cited, the stories that become commonly known without ever seeing a mention on major American networks, that very silence speaks far louder than words.

And so, it comes right back around to education - for learning is a life-long enterprise. We can no longer allow ourselves to be led by those who's most important life experience was learning how to stuff the nerd in the locker - and get away with it.

Really, everything you need to know in life, you should have learned in kindergarten. Is it not time that those who learned how to "beat the system," to take advantage of the "naive" and "idealistic" and "sentimental," to be kept far from the levers of power.

Image credit: Death In Torture poster by DeathinTorture

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reb Bono speaks, Exunt Cathedra

Op-Ed Guest Columnist - It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is? -

I tried and tried and tried to find a paragraph to tease from the whole. There is only one - but it's the final paragraph, and you might be tempted to simply let it stand for the whole. It does not - and it's almost parenthetical.

Please go read it, and by all means, discuss it among yourselves.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

For more information, clic ici!

Briar Patch Politics

I encountered a curious observation over at Mercy Politics.

Mercy Politics: Obama's Decision:" Worse Than a Crime, It's a Mistake": "if you are not going to prosecute the CIA agents arguing that they were just following orders issued by the upper echelon of the Bush administration; then you have to go after the legal architects of the memos, and even further up the Bush administration's 'food chain' to whomever gave the instructions to draft the documents in question. This lack of legal logic is troubling from someone as smart as Obama; especially considering that he has a background in constitutional law."

Thing is, he IS too smart to know this will play out the way he seems to hope. The release of the full memos, rather than selected excerpts, will tend to add weight to efforts outside of the Washington political context, such as ACLU v. Rumsfield.

Whatever arises from that effort, in terms of legal, or merely political impact, will tend to be blamed on the ACLU - not President Obama, who has to rely on a rather nervous intelligence community. But at some point, it may well be that public pressure will actually "throw him into dat briar patch."

Help Steven Colbert Bribe the Comedy Network!

I'm tired of seeing the Black Screen of No. How about you?

It begins thus...

Op-Ed Columinst - The Bigots’ Last Hurrah -

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”
I meant to include the Colbert video in my earlier video compilation, A Mighty Wind is Breaking - it's clearly a winner.

But honestly, I didn't do it because it's a damn pain in the ass for me. Comedy Central and CTV's Comedy Channel do not play nice and so I have to include the proper embed plus a Canadian link. Goddess only knows how many other links I should include. There's a more disturbing situation in the UK. It's a Fox channel, and it's not in sync with the US and Canada.

Is there some special link for Finland or Botswana?

Maybe you guys could come up with some service that, I don't know, perhaps automatically detected what country a person comes from ... oh, wait, you have!

But all it does is tell me I can't WATCH the clip and redirects me to a site where I may or may not be able to find the same clip instead of serving me an ad for Canadian Tire or Tim Horton's, as the God of Cantor and Segel clearly intended. Even sillier, It can't be embedded!

Look guys. We Canadians like you. We like the Comedy Channel, too. (Where else can you find full episodes of Corner Gas?) But this is just strange and ridiculous, and it deserves an equally ridiculous response!

I urge Canadians to ask themselves, "What Would Colbert Do?" Clearly, he'd consider all the proper courses of action - and then bribe someone!

We must empower Steven to bribe the Comedy Channel, the Comedy Network, or perhaps both.

I mean, obviously they must need a few parts or something to make the video embed gadget work properly. Something is missing, and the official apologea - delicate licencing issues - is a clear admission that they don't have a better technical solution for the simple problem of getting us to look at the right ads.

Perhaps they need a router, or a cable. Possibly some "pipe" fitting supplies. In Canada, the first place you think of going when you may need a torch and solder for those fat pipes is Canadian Tire.

Maybe some Nozzle Gel would help! I know Steven would love to say Nozzle Gel on air. Several times.

Please collect FAT wads of Canadian Tire Money (Remember, small, unmarked, well used bills only!). Oh, wait, you probably already have.

Well, I am posing the question over at The Colbert Nation right now, and soon, I hope, we will have an answer. An address to which we can send shrink wrapped pallets of the most stable North American Currency there is. Ron Paul dollars may be hard currency - but this is hardWARE currency!

Clearly any network spokescreature would be hideously embarrassed by being publicly offered a truckload of Canadian Tire Money in order to fix a silly problem. But then, that's the point. So, Canada - head to your glove boxes with rubber bands in hand. A few hundred thousand ones, threes and fives ought to underscore the triviality of the situation!


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