Showing posts with label torture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label torture. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sarah Palin's short-bus fascism

Every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth, I have to fight the urge to fire off an email to Vladimir Putin reminding him that Alaska was once part of Mother Russia.

Here's why. A United States with the former Alaska governor still in it -- and still commanding the attention of too many who are too dumb to know any better -- is a United States that loiters a few steps too close to deciding that vee haff veys uff dealink vith zem.

Or you.

Palin talked about "them" and "they" a lot Saturday at the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis -- just watch the whole video above if you can stand it. "They" are threats to you . . . unless, of course, you are one of "them." Then you're an enemy of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and market capitalism. And Sarah Palin hass veys uff dealink vith you -- just like she does  any other "enemy," like jihadists:
Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.
THUS the harebrained wonder from Wasilla revealed herself not only as a particularly pathetic specimen of Demagogus Americanus but as something of an antichrist as well.

No, she's not the Antichrist, but an antichrist, who in equating the sacrament of baptism with torture -- and gleefully so -- profanes and mocks a faith she allegedly professes.

Days later, she remained unrepentant:
According to a report by NBC, the backlash against Palin’s remarks, even within the religious community, have fallen on deaf ears.

"Would I make it again?” Palin told NBC News in response to the criticisms of her metaphor. “Why wouldn't I, yeah, absolutely. Terrorists who want to annihilate Americans, innocent Americans, our children — whatever it takes to stop them. If I were in charge, I'd be stoppin' em."
DEAR GOD. Joseph McCarthy may have cringed a little from the grave. 

The red-baiting U.S. senator from Wisconsin may have been evil, but he wasn't stupid. Palin is showing herself to be both -- yet we very nearly put this woman a heartbeat from the presidency in 2008.

It is a deadly serious thing to become an unserious people. Saturday, Sarah Palin (and the mob who loves her) gave us a glimpse into the abyss. How close we are to disappearing into it might be measured by exactly how radioactive those politicians who accept this malevolent nitwit's embrace become.

I'M REFERRING to you Pete Ricketts (candidate for Nebraska governor). And to you Ben Sasse (Nebraska candidate for U.S. Senate).

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Because there are no 'enhanced recounts'. . . .

The Honorable Whack Job from Florida has ways of dealing with sticky wickets such as this.

Unfortunately for him, however,  it would have been impractical for congressman Allen West to shove the State of Florida's head into a weapon-clearing barrel and fire his sidearm into the sand next to it until it gave him the result he desired.

So, according to this story from ABC News, the other guy has at long last won:
Rep. Allen West, a Florida Tea Party Republican who rode the wave of anti-spending fever to Congress in 2010, has conceded to Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, who will take his seat as the youngest member of the 113th Congress in January.

The Associated Press today called the race for Murphy. West conceded in a statement, while saying “there are certainly still inaccuracies in the results.

“For two weeks since Election Day, we have been working to ensure every vote is counted accurately and fairly,” West said. “While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election.”

The race was decided by fewer than 2,000 votes, with Murphy topping West 166,233 to 164,316, according to the latest tally from the AP. The state of Florida must still certify the result.

“While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change,” West continued. “I want to congratulate my opponent, Patrick Murphy, as the new congressman from the 18th Congressional District. I pray he will serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and put the interests of our nation before his own.”

Murphy maintained a considerable lead while provisional and absentee ballots were counted, but West forged ahead with legal challenges.

“I appreciate Congressman West’s gracious concession today,” Murphy said today in a statement. “To those who supported my opponent, my door is open and I want to hear your voice.  I campaigned on a message of reaching across the aisle to get things done for the people of the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches, and that is as important in this district as it is in Washington.  I am excited and honored to get to work.”
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE for the soon-to-be-former congressman, he'll have a lot more free time to engage in non-negotiable sex acts with his very own personal "porn star," otherwise known as Mrs. West.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to. . . .

Monday, July 30, 2012

Precocious preteen sucks worse than Roseanne

Parents who let an 11-year-old girl call herself a "singer-songwriter" and traipse through the Texas coffeehouse and showcase circuit need to have their heads examined.

Parents who let an 11-year-old white girl with an OK voice run around oversinging oversung Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé songs in public probably need to be horsewhipped.

And parents old enough to know better who let an 11-year-old girl who isn't do this to the national anthem at a major-league soccer game --
on television, no less -- need killin', to put it in their native Texan.

CONGRATULATIONS, asshats. There's now a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner worse than Roseanne Barr's. It's your daughter's.

You were happy to bask in the reflected glow of your little darling's prepubescent musical specialness. So you put her out there. And put her out there. And put her out there some more, because the fruit of mama's womb turned out to be a singer-songwriter!

I mean, if her website says it, it must be true!

And then you put her out there, before tens of thousands in a stadium and many more than that on TV. What could go wrong with an 11-year-old white girl trying to outdo Whitney Houston's version of a song that to most singers is what invading Afghanistan is to most empires?

Because, by God, people are gonna remember Harper Gruzins from Coppell, Texas!

Well, you got that right. The national anthem done in the style of Tibetan throat singing would have been less memorable . . . and more palatable.

Sadly for you, there's no reflected glory to bathe yourselves in. Worse for Harper, there's no shortage of Texas-size ridicule for a precocious preteen to bear all by her Lone Star self.

Somebody git a rope!

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rick Santorum: Slave of the Most High God

There is nothing Barack Obama can do to the Catholic Church that comes close to the kind of treachery righteously perpetrated by Catholics proclaiming the false gospel of the Most High Santorum.

The followers of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum worry that the liberal devil they see will kill the church by diminishing freedom of conscience in the name of contraception. In their ardor for a more morally perfect union, these "orthodox" Catholics hold high the banner of the conservative devil they refuse to see.

And who might that devil be? The one whispering into the election-year ear of Rick Santorum: Good Catholic Man.

Some proclaim the Pennsylvania politician as a "traditional" Catholic, while others prefer "orthodox." I prefer other terminology.

But the editors of a right-wing website by the grandiosely presumptuous name of were "proud" to endorse the man:
Catholic voters are looking for a candidate who can successfully combine the principles of the dignity of life and the dignity of work. Senator Santorum understands better than any other candidate the profound link between the moral, cultural and economic principles foundational to the success of America. We are convinced that Rick Santorum is the candidate best equipped to win not only the political arguments, but also the hearts of American voters as he did in Iowa on Tuesday. . . .

Finally, Senator Santorum is a man of honor, integrity, and authenticity. What you see is what you get. He has faithfully served the cause of life and marriage as an elected official and as a husband and father. And while no political candidate, or human being for that matter, is perfect, Rick Santorum’s baggage contains his clothes.

“Republicans hoping to win back the White House in November must unite behind the candidate most dedicated to the foundational issues of faith, family and freedom. If the GOP hopes to defeat President Obama, it takes a Rick Santorum to get it done.
I SUPPOSE we are to compare the clothes-filled baggage of the former U.S. senator to the Obama-, contraception- and abortion-filled baggage of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House and Everybody's Favorite Bad, Bad, REALLY Bad Catholic.

People like Pelosi are "cafeteria Catholics," don't you know? They give scandal to Jesus Christ and His church by keeping those of His -- and its -- teachings they like and denouncing the rest as the rantings of a bunch of out-of-touch, celibate men. Who probably are just a bunch of pedophiles, anyway.

This is true, so far as it goes. "Bad" public Catholics like Pelosi, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Vice President Joe Biden, can tolerate anything but the authoritative teaching of Catholicism on social issues like abortion.

Unlike Rick Santorum.

Another of the people, "American Papist" blogger Thomas Peters cannot say enough good things about the good things Santorum brings to the presidential election. Then again, that just might have been the "man crush" talking last year:
Catholics, we need to stick together behind good guys like Rick. This includes offering constructive criticism at times, but it also means not missing opportunities to say good things when that’s what’s needed.

As I bring up often when I talk about Catholic identity in politics and the public square, the number one attack those who hate the Church or disagree with her teachings have is the attack of disunity. Those who oppose the Church know the Church is at her weakest when she is internally divided, which means what they are most scared of is a united Church.
INDEED, it is good when Catholics can stop the incessant left-right squabbling and stick together on something. On the other hand, it would be nice if the something -- or someone -- we stuck together for represented something better than the same degree (just different) of cafeteria Catholicism exemplified by Democrat pols Pelosi, Sebelius and Biden.

Catholics of America,
ecce Santorum:

SANTORUM'S eagerness for war with Iran, absent any present or imminent Iranian attack on the United States, may be many things -- moronic, reckless, foolish and catastrophic come to mind -- but it isn't Catholic. The church embraces something called the "just war theory," which it thought enough of to make authoritative . . . and binding on Catholics. It's in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says:
2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
WHERE IS the "certain" damage addressed by a preventive war? I'll wait while Santorum's Catholic enthusiasts search in vain for a rationalization to neuter the clear teaching of their own faith.

For instance, where is the "orthodox" Catholicism oozing out of
this statement by the "traditional" Catholic for whom we're supposed to "stick together"?

SORRY, but when I think of "orthodox Catholics for unprovoked, pre-emptive missile strikes and bombing runs," my minds keeps drifting off to the faithful witness of "Catholics for Free Choice." As in the "free choice" to kill your unborn child in the holy name of Personal Autonomy.

On the other hand, you don't want to know what I think of when I hear pious drivel like "the number one attack those who hate the Church or disagree with her teachings have is the attack of disunity" while watching Mr. Real Catholic Guy here:

AND THERE'S this, of course, from a radio interview last year on The Hugh Hewitt Show:
HH: Now did the bin Laden killing cause you to hope that the enhanced interrogation debate returns center stage about whether or not, and when such techniques ought to be used?

RS: Well, not only that, but the first thing that should happen, Hugh, was that the President of the United States should have stepped forward and said we are going to stop this, well, potential prosecution of those within the intelligence community who were involved in the enhanced interrogation program. That should have been step one, going to Eric Holder and saying enough is enough, we’re not doing this anymore. We need to give these guys medals, not prosecute them.

Number two, he should have stepped forward and said look, I was wrong, the enhanced interrogation program did work, it did produce my greatest foreign policy success. And I’m going to admit when I was wrong, and we’re going to look at how we’re going to redeploy this under obviously different rules and regulations, since of course the Obama administration told the enemy what we were doing in the previous enhanced interrogation programs.
HH: Now your former colleague, John McCain, said look, there’s no record, there’s no evidence here that these methods actually led to the capture or the killing of bin Laden. Do you disagree with that? Or do you think he’s got an argument?

RS: I don’t, everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.

I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative. And that’s when we got this information. And one thing led to another, and led to another, and that’s how we ended up with bin Laden. That seems to be clear from all the information I read. Maybe McCain has better information than I do, but from what I’ve seen, it seems pretty clear that but for these cooperative witnesses who were cooperative as a result of enhanced interrogations, we would not have gotten bin Laden.
WOW. Just wow.

John McCain doesn't understand torture? Maybe this "orthodox" Catholic man who would be leader of The World Formerly Known as Free thinks the "Hanoi Hilton" really was a Hilton. And that the now-senator from Arizona and all the other prisoners of war there really did spend all day playing volleyball, just like in the North Vietnamese propaganda films.

But I digress.

It would seem Santorum -- and those who unconditionally love his candidacy -- may be unfamiliar with the authoritative teaching of not only the catechism, but also of
Gaudium et Spes -- one of the core documents of the Second Vatican Council:
27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40).

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.
AS I SAID at the beginning of this post, President Obama can do what he likes to the Catholic Church regarding the "contraceptive mandate," but he can't really hurt it. Catholicism has survived 2,000 years of tyrants and maniacs in high places. It survived the Borgia popes. It survived the Reformation. And it will survive whatever cute, demagogic tricks Obama has in store to help shore up the Democratic base before the election.

What really can hurt the church is us. People like Santorum who tout their "orthodox Catholic" bona fides while standing in the cafeteria line, picking up this doctrine and passing on that one.

Political persecution can make us martyrs, but clowns like you, me, the former senator from Pennsylvania and the "real Catholics" who back him . . . we can make Christ's church look foolish or, worse, evil. All we have to do is put ourselves out there as proclaimers of the Truth while telling a little lie here and another there.

In other words, where is the apostle Paul when we need him? Let us turn to Acts 16:
As we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl with an oracular spirit, who used to bring a large profit to her owners through her fortune-telling.
She began to follow Paul and us, shouting, "These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation."
She did this for many days. Paul became annoyed, turned, and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." Then it came out at that moment.
When her owners saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the public square before the local authorities.
They brought them before the magistrates 7 and said, "These people are Jews and are disturbing our city
and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice."
The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods.
After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely.
When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake.
About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened,
there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew (his) sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, "Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas.
Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved."
So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.
AS THEY SAY, the devil is in the details.

Just as the demon-possessed oracle told everyone that Paul and his company were
slaves (not children) of the Most High God and proclaimed a way (not the way) of salvation, Santorum conflates his ham-handed -- yet basically correct -- pronouncements on abortion, birth control and sexuality with Satan's social teaching on torture and war. The effect -- once we Catholics and the secular media have finished making Santorum into the exemplar of the true church -- is to make the true church look like a damned lie.

Good job --

Now at the risk of being horribly presumptuous (but tired of waiting for someone more qualified to do it), I feel it somehow necessary to trade my inner Jeremiah for my inner Paul in the case of Rick Santorum and His True Catholics for Chaos.

So, with apologies in advance to St. Paul . . .
"I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of them."


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I'll bet they stomp puppies, too

I don't believe in torture. I am willing, however, to consider an exception to this for certain multinational bankers after watching the above WSB-TV report.

Others well to my right, though, might think the real problem down in Georgia is that Fulton County sheriff's deputies are a bunch of squishy-soft socialists. For refusing to throw a 103-year-old woman and her 83-year-old daughter out of their house and onto the street after Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase foreclosed on them, with the blessing of a local judge.

Chase, which services the loan for Deutsche Bank, took $25 billion in TARP money from the American taxpayer after investment bankers blew up the U.S. economy. And those who received much financial mercy from the American government and people showed none to two little old ladies in the dead of winter.

That is, until the TV cameras showed up, and the cops discovered that sometimes the law is no fit thing for a just man to enforce.

THERE'S EVEN a scripture for this. Let us turn to Matthew, Chapter 18:
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.

When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.

Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’

Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.

Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’

34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.

35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
WATERBOARDING: It's not just for Muslim "enemy combatants."

I wonder whether the present crop of publicly God-fearing Republican presidential candidates -- some of whom are chomping at the bit to torture somebody . . .
anybody -- are willing to go there with the very folks the Bible says have it coming. Their pals the bankers.

Something tells me the answer is no.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The last refuge of scoundrels

"After reading Krugman's repugnant piece on 9/11, I cancelled my subscription to the New York Times this AM."

That's the reaction on Twitter today from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to "The Years of Shame" blog post published Sunday by New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.

-- NPR's The Two-Way blog

Donald Rumsfeld is such a wuss. Among other things.

There are hundreds of millions of us who weren't so petulant as to renounce our U.S. citizenship over his repugnant performance as defense secretary. Even after Abu Ghraib.

If Rick Perry is elected the next president, however, all bets are off. I hear Montreal is lovely this time of year.

And, for what it's worth, Paul Krugman was a lot more right than wrong.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Time to cut out our national cancer

Newsweek says Attorney General Eric Holder is leaning toward appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush Administration's torture regime.

Praise God.
Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."


Holder began to review those policies in April. As he pored over reports and listened to briefings, he became increasingly troubled. There were startling indications that some interrogators had gone far beyond what had been authorized in the legal opinions issued by the Justice Department, which were themselves controversial. He told one intimate that what he saw "turned my stomach."

It was soon clear to Holder that he might have to launch an investigation to determine whether crimes were committed under the Bush administration and prosecutions warranted. The obstacles were obvious. For a new administration to reach back and investigate its predecessor is rare, if not unprecedented. After having been deeply involved in the decision to authorize Ken Starr to investigate Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, Holder well knew how politicized things could get. He worried about the impact on the CIA, whose operatives would be at the center of any probe. And he could clearly read the signals coming out of the White House. President Obama had already deflected the left wing of his party and human-rights organizations by saying, "We should be looking forward and not backwards" when it came to Bush-era abuses.

Still, Holder couldn't shake what he had learned in reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA's "black sites." If the public knew the details, he and his aides figured, there would be a groundswell of support for an independent probe. He raised with his staff the possibility of appointing a prosecutor. According to three sources familiar with the process, they discussed several potential choices and the criteria for such a sensitive investigation. Holder was looking for someone with "gravitas and grit," according to one of these sources, all of whom declined to be named. At one point, an aide joked that Holder might need to clone Patrick Fitzgerald, the hard-charging, independent-minded U.S. attorney who had prosecuted Scooter Libby in the Plamegate affair. In the end, Holder asked for a list of 10 candidates, five from within the Justice Department and five from outside.
OF COURSE, if Holder, a former District of Columbia trial judge, goes forward with this, President Obama likely will not be pleased . . . and the Republicans are going to go absolutely nuts.

They will go from merely unhinged to insurrectionary.
So be it. The continuing, imperfect sanctification of America -- if such a term may be used in the context of the political and social -- has nothing to do with going along to get along.

Usually, it has come about through the blood of martyrs.

America's original sin -- chattel slavery -- finally was expunged at the cost of a bloodbath, a four-year-long civil war. Even so, we still suffer from the legacy of that original sin unto this present day -- and it required the blood of untold modern-day martyrs to beat back Jim Crow, Satan's counteroffensive against the equality of man and the American ideal.

The Bush Administration's torture regime in the wake of 9/11 has been scarcely less destructive of American ideals, notion of human dignity and the rule of law. It is a cancer upon constitutional
rule and the American soul, and it will require the kind of hard medicine eradicating most cancer requires.

It's time to take our medicine or die. If the Republicans choose to cast their philosophical lot with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mao and Pol Pot, it will be their funeral.

Or, perhaps, ours.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The law: It's not for 'people like us'

David Broder has lost his mind.

At least I hope so -- that would be the charitable explanation for his Washington Post column urging President Obama to let sleeping torturers lie. But I don't think that's the case.

NO, I THINK there's another explanation for rhetoric like this:

Obama, to his credit, has ended one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.

He was right to do this. But he was just as right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government. And he was right when he sent out his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to declare that the same amnesty should apply to the lawyers and bureaucrats who devised and justified the Bush administration practices.

But now Obama is being lobbied by politicians and voters who want something more -- the humiliation and/or punishment of those responsible for the policies of the past. They are looking for individual scalps -- or, at least, careers and reputations.

Their argument is that without identifying and punishing the perpetrators, there can be no accountability -- and therefore no deterrent lesson for future administrations. It is a plausible-sounding rationale, but it cloaks an unworthy desire for vengeance.

Obama has opposed even the blandest form of investigation, a so-called truth commission, and has shown himself willing to confront this kind of populist anger. When the grass roots were stirred by the desire for vengeance against the AIG officers who received contractual bonuses from government bailout funds, Obama bought time by questioning the tactic. Quickly the patently unconstitutional 90 percent tax the House wanted to slap on those bonuses was forgotten.
LOOKING FOR SCALPS? Wait a minute. Just wait a minute. U.S. and international law prohibits torture of captured combatants, with penalties ranging up to death if the torture is fatal. Furthermore, the United States has led prosecution of torturers from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the wake of World War II, sending those individuals to prison for years. Or worse.

I think this example is interesting. An American military commission, in 1947, tried four Japanese defendants for war crimes committed against U.S. prisoners. Among the war crimes? Waterboarding.

Of course, Japanese war criminals had nothing on your average Texas sheriff.

In 1983, the San Jacinto County sheriff and three deputies were charged with -- and convicted of -- waterboarding prisoners to elicit confessions. The "lawmen" all went to prison for a long, long time.

As the judge said in federal court as he passed sentence: ''The operation down there would embarrass the dictator of a country.''

But not, as it turns out, a certain president of the United States hailing from the Lone Star state.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I gather what American interrogators did to "enemy combatants" in the name of the American people does embarrass David Broder. Just not enough to prosecute Bush Administration figures for acting just like Hitler's and Tojo's henchmen . . . or sadistic Texas lawmen.

No, according to Broder, war crimes just aren't that big a deal when it's Americans committing them. Or ordering them. I'll bet the venerable pundit also wonders why the world hates us.

Probably, in the fever swamp of his Beltway consciousness, Broder believes the world -- like the left-wing Washington ideologues and the provincial populist yahoos -- just harbors an "unworthy desire for vengeance." Vengeance identical to that we took against the Nazis and Japanese for their World War II atrocities, no doubt.

What were we thinking back then?

Couldn't Harry Truman see he was engaging "in a retroactive search for scapegoats"?

It's all so clear. At least to Broder:

That way, inevitably, lies endless political warfare. It would set the precedent for turning all future policy disagreements into political or criminal vendettas. That way lies untold bitterness -- and injustice.
IF ONLY President Truman had had the wisdom and foresight of David Broder, ace columnist of The Washington Post, we might have spared ourselves six decades of poisoned relations with Germany and Japan. Who knows? Perhaps we even could have turned those fierce enemies into close allies.

Oh, wait. . . .

Nevertheless, the point remains for the oracle Broder: Justice is never its own reward. Justice may or may not be useful depending upon what one's ulterior motives happen to be.

Like Pontius Pilate -- his philosophical brother two millennia removed who famously asked "What is truth?" -- Broder stands before verifiable, objective truth and muses "What is justice?"

Obviously, he figures justice must be radically different today for civilized people -- D.C. insiders with whom he's shared drinks and bon mots -- than it was for uncouth Nazis and wild-eyed Japanese fanatics of the 1940s.

Or for some Buford Pusser gone wrong in Bumf*** Tejas.

AND THE REST of us who figure the law is the law is the law . . . and that no man stands above it? In the world of David Broder and his Washington cronies, we're just so many grass-roots vigilantes, full of "populist anger" and hell-bent on vengeance.

No, in BroderWorld, the elites stick together against the rabble -- those crazy folk talking crazy talk. Really, what nut came up with foolishness like "government of the people, by the people, for the people" anyway?

Obviously, some rube who didn't know who his betters were.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blind cable channel finds acorn, drops F-bomb

Mrs. Favog is always getting on me about the F-word. She contends there is no proper use of "fudge" (not its real name) except, of course, when she "fudges" up and lets it slip in the heat of the moment.

Just kidding. She's generally mortified she let it slip.

My lowdown, sinful self, however, contends that some uses of the F-bomb are wholly appropriate as a means of conveying gravity and figuratively slapping the listener in the face, shaking him by the lapels and saying "Listen, dammit!" Of course, 99 percent of my personal use of "fudge" is completely gratuitous and, thus, unjustifiable.

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN, though, you run up against a completely justified F-bomb. Shepard Smith just accidentally unleashed one when discussing America's official torture program on the Fox News Channel.

Unfortunately for Shep, it was on live television. Fortunately for Shep, it was on cable TV, so it's not going to cost his bosses a big-time FCC fine.

And fortunately for viewers and connoisseurs of journalism, Shep's performance means there might be hope for "Faux News" after all.

But if Shepard Smith's head does roll due to his on-camera performance, you have to wonder whether it would be over a heaping helping of "fudge" . . . or because he came out foursquare against torturing in the name of God, Mom, apple pie and Chevrolet.

HAT TIP: Your Right Hand Thief.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Divine Comedy (Central)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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Again, what does it say about us that the most cogent, honest commentary in the American media comes from Comedy Central?

BE THAT AS IT MAY, I think there is one clear-cut, indisputable observation we can make about both those who run and those who observe United States of America: Torture Regime. The main thing American elites take away from their excellent educations at excellent schools is ever more witty, smooth and sophisticated ways of denying a fundamental thing their mamas told them when they were 4 or 5 -- that two wrongs don't make a right.

And what part, exactly, of
waterboarding Kalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in a month just screams "Mama would be so proud"?

Well, maybe if Mama were Eva Braun or
Ma Barker. . . .

The Good Book warns us "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Al Qaida isn't the only bunch who ought to be scared s***less on that count.

HAT TIP: Catholic and Enjoying It

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A tortured interpretation of the law

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It would appear the United States' long Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union -- and Korean War experience fighting the Red Chinese -- was extremely important in at least one respect.

IT TAUGHT US how to be just like what we purported to abhor, according to a Washington Post report on just-released U.S. government memos on "enhanced interrogation."
The newly released Justice Department memos place medical officials at the scene of the earliest CIA interrogations. At least one psychologist was present — and others were frequently consulted — during the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, a Palestinian who was captured by CIA and Pakistani intelligence officers in March 2002, the Justice documents state.

An Aug. 1, 2002, memo said the CIA relied on its "on-site psychologists" for help in designing an interrogation program for Abu Zubaida and ultimately came up with a list of 10 methods drawn from a U.S. military training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. That program, used to help prepare pilots endure torture in the event they are captured, is loosely based on techniques that were used by the Communist Chinese to torture American prisoners of war.

The role played by psychologists in adapting SERE methods for interrogation has been described in books and news articles, including some in The Washington Post. Author Jane Mayer and journalist Katherine Eban separately identified as key figures James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists in Washington state who worked as CIA contractors after 2001 and had extensive experience in SERE training. Mitchell, reached by telephone, declined to comment, and Jessen could not be reached yesterday.

The CIA psychologists had personal experience with SERE and helped convince CIA officials that harsh tactics would coerce confessions from Abu Zubaida without inflicting permanent harm. Waterboarding was touted as particularly useful because it was "reported to be almost 100 percent effective in producing cooperation," the memo said.

The agency then used a psychological assessment of Abu Zubaida to find his vulnerable points. One of them, it turns out, was a severe aversion to bugs.

"He appears to have a fear of insects," states the memo, which describes a plan to place a caterpillar or similar creature inside a tiny wooden crate in which Abu Zubaida was confined. CIA officials say the plan was never carried out.

Former intelligence officials contend that Abu Zubaida was found to have played a less important role in al-Qaeda than initially believed and that under harsh interrogation he provided little useful information about the organization's plans.

The memos acknowledge that the presence of medical professionals posed an ethical dilemma. But they contend that the CIA's use of doctors in interrogations was morally distinct from the practices of other countries that the United States has accused of committing torture. One memo notes that doctors who observed interrogations were empowered to stop them "if in their professional judgment the detainee may suffer severe physical or mental pain or suffering." In one instance, the CIA chose not to subject a detainee to waterboarding due to a "medical contraindication," according to a May 10, 2005, memo.

Yet, some doctors and ethicists insist that any participation by physicians was tantamount to complicity in torture.

"I don't think we had any idea doctors were involved to this extent, and it will shock most physicians," said George Annas, a professor of health law, bioethics and human rights at Boston University.
IF WE ARE STILL a nation ruled by law and not the strongman of the month, there will be consequences for those whose tortured interpretation of federal and international law permitted the torture of "high-value" detainees.

That includes George Bush and Dick Cheney.

If there are no consequences for serious violations of federal and international law, the consequence of that inaction will fall upon the rule of law itself.
We will indeed be a banana republic with nukes. Or perhaps much worse.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just kill me now, HAL. . . .

The Russians won't take this kind of crap like the Iraqis did at Abu Ghraib.

Think of it. You're a cosmonaut stuck for months and months in a single-wide in low earth orbit. There is no escape, unless you want to risk re-entering the Earth's atmosphere in that Soyuz escape capsule.

LIKE, "Is that one of the ones they fixed?"

So, pretty much, you're stuck.

And then. . . . And then. . . .
When you're on the International Space Station, you can't sit back and wait for tiny ballerinas, Hannah Montanas and Jokers to ring your doorbell on Halloween.

So what's a lonely astronaut to do?

Here's the answer to the homesick boos, from NASA and Omaha musician Chip Davis.

Davis and his group, Mannheim Steamroller, will have the astronauts on the station doing the "Monster Mash," snapping their fingers to "The Addams Family" theme and grooving to "Black Magic Woman" on Friday.

Music from one of the group's Halloween-themed albums will be beamed to the station.

"They're just shooting it up for something fun," Davis said Thursday. "That's a kick, isn't it?"

Astronauts on the space station spend weeks or months more than 200 miles from Earth, so NASA encourages them to unwind. Every morning, songs are broadcast to the station as a wakeup call. In 2005, former Beatle Paul McCartney performed at a live concert that was broadcast to the space station.

For Halloween, NASA selected Mannheim Steamroller's "Halloween 2." The group uses the synthesizer sound that gained fans for its wildly popular Christmas albums on songs associated with the ghostly holiday.
IF WHAT THE Omaha World-Herald reports is true -- and pray for the sake of avoiding nuclear war it isn't -- you might have some space travelers willing to risk re-entry without benefit of a space capsule. At least the end would be quick.

And without synthesizers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Abu Ghraib? No, Omaha.

Staff lead a young man into a brightly lit room.

He is barefoot and shirtless.

HIS HANDLERS wear latex surgical gloves.
But what really gets your attention in the bright light are two stainless steel hooks - big enough for deep-sea fishing - pierced into his upper back.

A heavy-duty cord connects to the eyelet on each hook. With a mountaineering rope and four pulleys, a man hoists Dalton off the floor, his hooked skin stretching as he rises.
HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE THINGS happened to Iraqi detainees at the hands of their American interrogators at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. But this, from the pages of the Sunday World-Herald, is not a story of that. Nor is it a tale of some of the more horrific violations of the Geneva Conventions at the U.S. detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The actual scene: A recent Sunday a
t an Omaha tattoo parlor:
The practice is called suspension, and several dozen people have tried it at a Bellevue tattoo shop, Dr. Jack's Ink Emporium.

Despite potential health risks, including infection, suspension is becoming more common across the country. But it's far from mainstream, and remains a fringe activity.

Suspension is not entirely new; some Native American tribes practiced a form of it in the 1800s and earlier as a rite of passage for young men.

Dalton and others do it to prove they can withstand the pain, giving them a sense of control over body and mind. They like the feel-good kick when their bodies release endorphins - narcotic-like hormones - in response to the pain, as well as the relaxed feeling when they are done.

And some like "performing" for the dozen or more people watching at the tattoo studio.

In an era when soccer moms have tattoos and teens have steel studs in their tongues, suspension is a way to stand out.

On a recent Sunday evening, more than 30 people watched Dalton and three others suspend at Dr. Jack's.


Dalton, 34, lay on his stomach on a padded table. Monte Vogel, general manager of the four Omaha-area Dr. Jack's shops, holds one hook. Mike Coons, a Dr. Jack's manager, holds the other.

The hooks gleam.

The sharp end of each hook is inserted into a hollow needle about 2 inches long. Vogel and Coons, wearing black latex gloves, pull up handfuls of Dalton's skin and, with a smooth motion, slip in a needle and hook, one on the right side of his upper back, the other on the left.

He doesn't flinch.

"Like a champ," Coons says.

"Always," says Dalton, who has suspended four times in the past nine months, each time hooked in his upper back.
DEVOTEES OF SUSPENSION pay Dr. Mengele's Dr. Jack's $100 a session for a few minutes of carefree swinging. From massive hooks run through them like a tarpon at the end of a 30-pound test line.
Dalton had it rough as a kid. He says he was physically abused and spent several years in foster homes. The abuse, he says, gave him a tolerance for pain.

He said that after a stint in the Army, he became an electrician and mechanic. He has always loved art and took pottery and painting classes in high school. One of his favorite pieces
: a dragon perched atop a mountain.

Dalton tapped that background when he became a Dr. Jack's tattooer about a year ago.

With the wood floors, off-white walls and bright lights, the room where Dalton suspends looks like a small dance studio.

The shop's owners designed it solely for suspension. A wall of glass allows people to watch from padded benches in the shop's main room.

Dalton, wearing long plaid shorts and a black cap, leans slightly forward when it's time.

Vogel attaches parachute cords to the hooks' eyelets, then connects the other end of the cords to a steel bar rigged to the rope and pulleys.

A Dr. Jack's employee pulls the rope slightly, and Dalton's hooked skin stretches. As Dalton is gradually pulled up, only the balls of his feet touch the floor; then, only his toe tips.

The employee pulls the rope a little more and Dalton is suspended, his feet dangling a few inches above the floor.

Dalton doesn't scream or moan.

The crowd quietly watches through the window.

Dalton feels the pressure of the hooks pulling his skin and a slight numbness in his upper back. He's feeling high, like a distance runner who is in good stride and past the point of pain.

He's looking forward, his arms dangling. Music from Clutch, a heavy blues-rock band, pumps into his head through earphones.

Dalton pushes off the glass wall with his legs, causing his body to swing. With each push, the arc of his swing increases.

His heart beats faster. He doesn't feel any pain.

He looks like a skateboarder as he zips from one side of the room to the other. He knows the crowd wants to see more than just someone hanging. They want action.

"Getting close to 15 (minutes)," a Dr. Jack's employee calls out.

Dalton swings a while longer before the crew lets him down, to the applause of the crowd. He had suspended about 20 minutes.
WHY IS IT that any "enhanced interrogation" Bush, Cheney & Co. performs on Arab wretches in the name of "freedom" and "security" comes as shock to us at all, here in the American heartla
nd? It's no more than what we do to ourselves . . . for our own "tortured" reasons and to overwhelm a gnawing pain that's worse than any giant fish hook protruding from our flesh.

Or was that a meat hook?
Ryan Schoultz, a 20-year-old cook, is tan and polite and talks with a Southern accent. His wife is there to take pictures.

He has hung once before, from his back. This time, it's from the chest. More of a challenge.

As he's lifted, his skin tears slightly. He doesn't feel pain but he hears his skin rip. The crew lets him down so the skin won't tear more.

Schoultz vows to try it again -- but not this night.
THE BARBARIANS are no longer at the gate. If there's a fundamental difference between us and tattooed Amazon headhunters with bones sticking through their lips and noses, I fail to apprehend what that might be any longer.

On the other hand, I readily grasp the difference between Saddam Hussein and ourselves. Saddam had the good sense never to torture himself. Or at least never pay $100 for the "privilege."

One question: How long before some Bush Administration official dredges up this little story from Omaha, Neb., as a defense exhibit at a war-crimes trial? Is what I'm asking.