Torture and other fun topics

I suppose it oughtn’t to be necessary to say, but I’m against torture. Dick Cheney’s been rebuked. Not so incidentally, I recognize his right to speak; I was just hoping that he wouldn’t exercise it right away. Most Vice-Presidents (Nixon in 1960, Gore in 2000) GO AWAY for a while.

Jaquandor, in touting someone else’s disgust with some conservative talk show host’s ramblings about waterboarding, was rather eviscerating of (yawn) Hannity who was likewise braying that he’d undergo waterboarding and “he’d do it for the troops”, I thought, “OK, you blowhard. But let’s do it right. Let’s have someone grab you off the street, throw you into a van, blindfold you, and drive you to someplace you have no idea. Then let’s have them strip off your clothes, deprive you of food for days, not say a word to you except to tell you to stand up or lie down; let’s have them randomly beat you. And then let’s have them waterboard you. No cameras to record your bravado. No knowledge that after ten seconds it’ll all be over. Let’s have them waterboard you, over and over and over again, until you scream for no more. Sounds about right to me.

Meanwhile Greg talks about Charles Krauthammer, moral relativism and torture, which you should just go read.

But there was a concept in Greg’s piece that reminded me of a somewhat different situation. In October 1972, I had to go in front of my draft board in Binghamton to maintain my position that I was a conscious objector, which I had declared when I had registered for the draft about a year and a half earlier, and which I had to deal with because my draft number was so low – 2. One of the questions was what I would do if someone attacked my mother. I said I would defend her and protect her. Then, I was asked, would not going to fight a Hitler be a protecting my mother against attack? My response was that it is one think to respond to an immediate threat of an attack against my mother; it was far different to intentionally put myself in a position to to fight and kill people. Perhaps this is moral relativism too, but regardless, I was granted a c.o.; then because the draft law was winding down, I wasn’t drafted anyway, even for alternative service.

Here’s another blogpost that had an impact on me this week, by Thom Wade: I hate that rape is an acceptable metaphor for minor things. Among the examples, “Stop Raping My Childhood, George Lucas.” Thom links to other banal rants as well. It is SO obviously wrongheaded that Thom should not have had to comment.

Finally, a personal, somewhat painful recollection by SamuraiFrog about family and friends and rage and therapy. “Everyone tells you to just get over it and move on, stop living in the past. But living in the past isn’t the problem.” I related to it more than I can say; OK, more than I am willing to say.



I’ve tried, really tried not to talk much about Barack Obama lately. Part of it is a deep abiding irritation that there’s been so much blather about how he hasn’t solved the economic crisis yet. The obvious point, of course, is that HE’S NOT PRESIDENT YET. I find that I’m even more annoyed with the incumbent, who, rather than trying to burnish his image in his last days, seems to have abdicated the position.

Then there’s all the talk, mostly from the left, about the formation of his cabinet. I identify as left of center politically, and I’m fine with his Cabinet choices. I must admit that I practically giggled when he chose Eric Shinseki as his secretary for the VA, a bit of in-your-face towards the Bush administration. Beyond that, nothing shocking. It seems as though some people were expecting Obama to create a Secretary of Peace and pick Dennis Kucinich to run it.

Some are making a big deal out of some recent Republican victories since November 4, suggesting that Obama’s lost his touch. Saxby Chambliss won reelection in the runoff for his U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, but he was leading before. John Fleming kept the seat of retiring Rep. Jim McCrery in Louisiana. Then, Republican newcomer Anh “Joseph” Cao beat a corrupt incumbent, William Jefferson, in a heavily Democratic Louisiana congressional district; he’ll be the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress and the first Republican to hold that seat since 1891, a seat held by both of ABC News’ Cokie Roberts’ parents, BTW. What all this really has to do with Obama is lost on me.

Headline from the Evans-Novak Political Report: Blagojevich arrest causes headache for Obama. well, not so much. The Illinois governor’s foul-mouth tirade after learning he’d get nothing for the Senate seat he wanted to hold hostage most observers found exculpatory re: the Obama camp.

I’ve found the whole “native-born American”/birth certificate issue both quite irritating and fascinating. The birth certificate issue I believe is dead, but the constitutional eligibility issue – his father, as a Kenyan, was a British subject – remains live. It’s discussed ad nauseum here, especially the comments, but I think the law will settle the issue favorbly.

Not incidentally, if Obama WERE declared ineligible to serve, what the heck would happen then? I’ve been looking at the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, but it offers no guidance.

There are those who believe that Obama Should Prosecute Bush Officials Who Designed Torture Policy. I’m good with that.

So, my question is in the title. How do you think Obama’s doing, given the fact that…well, I think I already mentioned that.

There’s no one as Irish as Barack OBama- Corrigan Brothers


Torture: I’m Against It

Well, that does seem obvious, I suppose. But this winter, ABC News was doing their Basic Instincts series, and they broadcast a piece on The Science of Evil. They replicated the Milgram experiment:
“The Milgram experiment was a series of famous scientific studies of social psychology, intended to measure the willingness of a participant to obey an authority who instructs the participant to do something that may conflict with the participant’s personal conscience.”

Then I discovered Ella Mazel. She is a…vintage woman who, in 1998, had put together a “treasury of quotes on the past, present, and future of the color line in America” called And don’t call me a racist!, which a colleague of mine had received at a conference, and had given me a copy. Ms. Mazel doesn’t sell the book, although she appreciates money for the postage.

Subsequently, she’s compiled Not in MY name!, a collection of quotes on the past, present, and future of the practice of torture. Even without photos, or specific descriptions of torture, I found it to be a disturbing read. This latter book is available only online.

Finally, I found a compelling read which matched my opinion as to Why I Stopped Watching “24”.

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