Saturday, September 30, 2006

Say hello to

Never In Our Names, which should be fully functional at some point this weekend. There are already some diaries up.

Got irony?

Dig this gem about the pro-torture legislation passed by our Congresscritters:
Ironically, this bill will be passed 60 years to the week after the Nuremberg sentences were handed down. Sixty years later, America has decided to ditch its constitution and international law and embrace the way of the tyrant.
Did you get that?

Sixty years after the Nuremberg sentences were handed down, the US government has chosen to haul off and legalize behaviors befitting of the Axis nations.

In part this seems like the Baby Boomers (or at least the corporate/political elites of that generation) collectively flipping the bird at their elders one last time.

The eagle has landed, leaving big ol' dookies all over the place, including its own nest.

I suspect that our leaders will have forgotten another lesson from six decades ago, that the Nuremberg defendants learned the hard way: the bird you flip today will come home to roost tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What waterboarding looks like

The first two images show an actual waterboard used for torture. The waterboards shown were used by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime, and are similar to those used by US torturers in Guantánamo Bay, etc.).


This last picture was painted by a former Cambodian prisoner and torture victim.

There are certainly plenty of folks who would refer to waterboarding as "torture-lite", or as not torture at all, but rather an "enhanced" interrogation technique. Heck, the technique of waterboarding might not seem that big a deal to someone who's never seen one or bothered to ask what one looks like or how it would be put into practice. If you didn't know before, now you do.

Waterboarding is one of the techniques that our government now deems acceptable as a means of gathering evidence to be used against alleged "enemy combatants" (who, now apparently can include practically anyone at Bu$hCo's whim). Getting aside from the moral issues (which in and of themselves are sufficient to say no to torture), on the practical side torture - via waterboarding or whatever - does not produce legit intelligence. It does not produce truthful confessions (follow the link to my previous post to read what a torture victim said of his experience). It is strictly a form of terror. Nothing more, nothing less.

As MDC might have said a couple decades ago, "who's the terrorist now?"

Pictures via David Corn. Props to Uncle $cam for the tip.

The human face of torture: Carlos Mauricio

The story:
In 1983, Carlos Mauricio, a professor at the University of El Salvador, was abducted from his classroom by individuals dressed in civilian clothes who forced him into an unmarked vehicle. Mauricio was detained at the National Police headquarters in San Salvador for approximately a week and a half. During his first week in detention, he was tortured and interrogated in a clandestine torture center at the National Police headquarters as a suspected FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) commander. Mauricio’s captors at the National Police headquarters strung him up with his hands behind his back over his head and repeatedly hit him with a metal bar covered with rubber, inflicting injuries to his face and torso. During the first 2–3 days of detention, he was given no food to eat. He was denied use of a bathroom throughout his confinement in the torture center.

In 2002, Carlos Mauricio, along with two other torture victims, won a $54 million verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals. He has continued to speak out against torture and other human rights abuses.
What Prof. Mauricio has to say about the US government's role in perpetrating torture:
I am here because I am a torture survivor, so it is very important for me to come and tell people what happened in that horrible experience. I was captured by the Salvadoran army in 1983 and I was tortured for nine nights in a row. It was truly horrible. But the idea of coming here to protest John Yoo is precisely because the legalization of torture in the United States is coming with the idea of torturing U.S. citizens. Torture is carried out now openly abroad. The USA army has been torturing prisoners for many, many years. It was reported in Vietnam, so it is nothing new. But the idea of making torture legal in the United States—because the U.S. Constitution forbids it—is very important if the government wants to carry out torture of U.S. citizens. I am very concerned about that because I do believe the rights of U.S. citizens have been eroded by the administration. You see right now we have disappearances—they are called “extraordinary renditions.” We have clandestine cells being run by the CIA. We have the government of the USA torturing openly in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. So what is next? Next is here in the United States, openly torturing citizens of the United States. That is my concern. That’s why I want to denounce John Yoo.

I am here because I want to tell the story of what happened to me because I don’t want that story repeated in others. Torture is very, very horrible.

Nerdified link. My emphasis added.

Mos Def - Katrina Klap (Dollar Day)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The American Character (Or Lack Thereof): Torture Edition

When history judges early 21st century USA, the verdict will be harsh. The first decade of this century will likely be known as the decade in which the notion of "American exceptionalism" (a delusionary notion to begin with) died. What killed off the exceptionalist myth? Was it the initiation of multiple wars leading to carnage comparable to that of the Dresden air raids or Guernica? Was it the flagrant nose-thumbing of the rest of the international community as such carnage was carried out? Was it the relative apathy of US citizens and those representatives of the so-called opposition party in the face of ever-worsening human rights violations committed by a White House that can only be described as fascist? Those elements will certainly be among those considered in the court of historical analysis. The true death knell to the exceptionalist myth will be said to have occurred in the early fall of 2006 when a Republican-led congress (with the meek enabling of a Democrat minority party) made torture the law of the land and simultaneously trashed the standard of habeas corpus - a move that no doubt puts the mighty USA in the company of world powers past: Stalin's USSR, Hitler's Germany, ad nauseum.

Americans will take their place as largely conformist, authoritarian, and bloodthirsty - with a majority having few if any qualms in displaying a fetish for cruelty. The American character, far from civilized, will instead be remembered as one of savagery masquerading as sophistication. That is our legacy.

Industrial music for industrial people

A blast from the past: Kino by Cabaret Voltaire. The video was my introduction to the Cabs (back in 1985 - does time fly!), and I've been a fan since. Enjoy.

Say no to torture



Sez it all. Via Rusty Idols.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Say hello to

Curved-Air. Apparently the cat behind Curved-Air came upon my blog due to a shared in interest in Gylan Kain's classic album The Blue Guerrilla.

Here's a description of the site:
Curved-Air is primarily a record sharity blog w/ other little joyous bits sprinkled in. The love of music and shares are deeply felt here and we leave few stones unturned. Krautrock, psych, jazz, freejazz, fusion, folk, pre-80’s electronic works, experimental electronics, avant-garde, funk, soul, hip-hop, and other oddities all find a home here at CA. Hope you Enjoy!!!
Well worth checking out. In fact I'm adding this one to my blogroll.

Monday morning food for thought

A ten-year old girl timidly inquired of him [Archie Shepp] why he assumed a fiercely distorted visage adorned with tinted yellow glasses and a beret pulled low as he seemingly stalked the matinee audience at a club. "Are you trying to scare somebody?" she asked of the handsome soft-spoken Shepp.

"It's theater!" he proclaimed to her grandly. "You can't go in there without the magic of illusion. You know, when you talk to God you must come out in your colors. You can't just meet the day any kind of way. You've got to dress up for it. And I like hats. I change them all the time. The illusion of theater...drama...is one of the oldest arts in the world. Along with music, of course. Unfortunately, too many people no longer associate music and drama except in opera or on Broadway. But whenever you see a performer, you're watching the performer. It's visual. It's a happening. Life is a happening but you must live it!"

From the liner notes to Live in San Francisco
Evey: That's very important to you, isn't it? All that theatrical stuff.

V: It's everything Evey. The perfect entrance, the grand illusion. It's everything. And I'm going to bring the house down.

They've forgotten the drama of it all, you see. They abandoned their scripts when the world withered in the glare of the nuclear footlights. I'm going to remind them about melodrama. About the Tuppeny Rush and the Penny Dreadful. You see, Evey, all the world's a stage, and everything else...is Vaudeville.

From the intro to Chapter 4 of V for Vendetta (the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd). My links added for context.

Jesus Camp Trailer Parody



Via BEEP! BEEP! IT'S ME

Some other links (via the same source):

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A dream

I had a dream last night that has continued to haunt me all day. Although hardly long-lasting, it was vivid enough in its own right.

I was basically walking, grocery items in hand, and stumbled upon a riot. Think of the images of the late 1990s WTO protests. People were all over the place. A number of men were taking whatever items they could find to smash windows and break down doors to buildings that I suppose had until recently housed the workings - financial and political - of what many of us consider "civilization."

What was most striking was the vibe of the whole scenario, as well as my reaction to what was going on. The atmosphere was not especially angry or intense. I saw no violence to speak of. In fact there was almost a block party element to the proceedings. Near where I was standing, right in the middle of the street, some couches that had apparently been looted at some point in the recent past were being occupied by various people conversing - young and old, male and female, various ethnicities, some quite counterculture in their outward appearance, others appearing as if they had until recently had a stake in whatever system had once existed. There was no traffic noise to be heard, although there were plenty of cars to be found parked. Whatever law enforcement or military presence that I happened upon seemed minimal and stifled. I wondered if they were even still on some payroll or were merely standing around out of habit.

My own reaction to the whole thing was nonchalant - this was apparently the norm (perhaps explaining why I was walking rather than driving as I usually do). I merely went about my route. Whatever constituted "western civilization" in that particular urban corner of America had fallen it appeared, and it seemed as if life went on.

Connectedness

In times like these, that's a critical concept to embrace. Here's something I ran into today:

There is a slow, steady movement building to resist the aggressive, divisive militarism and corporate exploitation being pushed upon the world by the United States of America, Israel and the United Kingdom. This past week, members and leaders of the North American Indian Nations met with the Aymaran president of Bolivia, Evo Morales:

The meeting was hosted by the secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the AILA, an indigenous peoples’ nongovernmental organization with offices in New York City. Alex Contreras, Morales’ press secretary, stated that ‘’the meeting was set up at the request of President Morales, who seeks to initiate a substantive exchange between indigenous leaders from the North and the South to discuss the issues shared by Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.’’ Lebsock added, ‘’The election of President Morales is an historic event for all Indian peoples. For him to honor us by meeting with our traditional Native American leaders is another step in the undeniable presence of indigenous peoples in international advocacy, especially human rights.’’

There was discussion of the shared experiences of the indigenous peoples of the north and the south when confronted by their conquerors:

‘’I was really satisfied,’’ White Plume noted. ‘’And he [Morales] was very impressed.’’ The Lakota leader recounted how Morales had thought that ‘’American Indians were imperialists like the rest of the country, but we cleared that up.’’

‘’It was interesting that the way he grew up was similar to how it was for us in the beginning of our colonization, but he kept to the old ways,’’ White Plume continued. ‘’And we agreed that all indigenous people need to bring back some of our old ways.’’

That many North American clans were intact and that the old languages were being preserved were among the things that impressed Morales, he stated.

‘’But we also discussed how the earth, the air and the water have been ruined in the last 500 years, in both our countries,’’ he stated. ‘’We also want to work on getting the Vatican to rescind the Papal Bull of 1493 which declared us heathen and savages ... we unanimously agreed to work on that together.’’

The North American leaders were asked to help Morales draft a few comments about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which were to be included in his speech to the United Nations.

‘’It has been a rewarding day,’’ Lebsock said. ‘’We asked him to urge the General Assembly to pass the Declaration unamended, as-is, and to remind them that this is a new beginning for the human rights of indigenous peoples.’’

He noted that certain articles of the declaration dealt with many of the issues discussed at the meeting; Article 3 on self-determination, Article 36 on treaties, and Articles 21 - 28 dealing with access to and control of natural resources. (More info on the declaration can be found at the AILA Web site, http://www.ailanyc.org. ) (CLICK HERE for a .pdf of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

Here at the end of this latest cycle of time, on the cusp of great change and dangerous upheaval, what lessons can we find from this meeting, and from the growing movements calling for change, for more opportunities for the poor, the oppressed and the suffering around the world?

Well, first lets throw away any of the “noble savage” tropes that are all-too-often slathered over the top of meetings like these, declarations like these. Indigenous people are only people, after all, subject to the same jealousies and corruptions as anybody else. Instead, lets look at the ideas that form the mythical basis for so many so-called “pagan” or “primitive” cultures, ideas that are being carried forward by leaders like those above. What so many of these cultures hold to be true, hold in common, is the idea of CONNECTEDNESS. The Lakota phrase for this belief is Mitakuye Oyasin, “for all my relations” or “we are all related”. This isn’t an idea limited only to indigenous peoples. Connectedness can be seen in idea of the Golden Rule that is found in so many of the world’s ethical and religious systems. The interesting thing about this version is that it includes the Earth itself, the animals who walk upon it, the species who fly through our skies, the creatures who swim in the waters, and the generations yet to come.

[snip]

JamesEarl asked, in a comment to my last piece:

Similarly, and more importantly, I don’t think the American people, as a group, are going to alter their flawed habits and inaccurate worldviews unless and until we face a disaster of Great Depression proportions. But that is another idea for another post; I’d really like to hear what Madman has to say on that and discuss it with all of you.

This is a good observation. I think such a breaking apart is baked into the way this country BELIEVES in itself. The ONLY values we seem to agree to share are surface values, the mindless flag waving and empty words about how “we are all Americans”. We can see how empty talk of an American “community” is in the growing calls for Houston residents to arm themselves against the “dangerous” hordes of Katrina refugees who suffer with little or nothing in a city that doesn’t welcome them. A huge diaspora of American citizens flounders, spread out all over the country, dependent on charity or luck or the kindness of family and strangers, while the national government manages to accomplish ONE major piece of rebuilding ... an outmoded football stadium. From this expression of the importance of commerce over basic needs, we’re all supposed to see signs of a resurgent New Orleans. It’s actually a corrupt symbol of what this country ACTUALLY stands for ... money-making expressions of how we all MUST compete with each other, always.

So if we are headed toward a breaking comparable to the Great Depression, and it seems increasingly that the right is PUSHING for more violence, more hunger, more economic dissolution, then what are our chances of coming out the other side of it with anything resembling a better country? Can we even remain a country? Should we?

The only hope for getting us off this highway to hell is to look more closely at the value to be found in connectedness. After a long history of killing and exploiting the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere, it may be our salvation to listen to this long tradition. Perhaps we can allow this gift to redirect how we look at one another, at our relationship with the environment and other nations. We’ve done it before. The Depression showed many Americans how much we had in common, although it took many of us having our lives all-but destroyed to find those commonalities. Even then, the movements that provided the political impetus to create the New Deal were attacked as traitors, race-baited, beaten in the streets. The idea that there is a “good American” and an invading or dangerous other is a long tradition here, and moving past it will be very, very hard.

I hope we have the ability to find those connections within us, or we’re more likely to come out of the upcoming economic and environmental trials with a much more dystopic society, one with little vestige left of any sign of democracy. It is to our south, and to those quietly working within our borders, that I look with the faint hope I can muster for a better future beyond our avid pursuit of our own destruction. If we can’t learn a better truth, that in believing and living the idea Mitakuye Oyasin we can build together, rather than exploit apart, then I fear that we are headed for a dark future indeed.

Food for thought.

I read banned books


This week marks the 25th observation of Banned Books Week - a yearly tradition that started in 1982. Let's just say that a good part of my fun as a teen was figuring out what books the blue noses didn't want me to read, so I could go out and check them out or perhaps purchase (if I could save up enough pennies). In those days if my memory serves, books like George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World would have been among those challenged on, say, grounds of being sexually explicit - let's say that in Orwell's dystopia a couple having sex for love or pleasure would be viewed as a terrorist act, while sex (and of course consumerism - how could I forget consumerism!) in Huxley's dystopia is actually promoted by the government - at least among the privileged castes - to distract the masses from what's really going on (and in fact both of those books, among others that I've read, appear here).

The top ten challenged books from 2005 (for those looking for a bit of guidance for what to read):

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2005” reflect a range of themes. The books are:

  • “It's Perfectly Normal” for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;
  • “Forever” by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;
  • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;
  • “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;
  • “Whale Talk” by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;
  • “Detour for Emmy” by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;
  • “What My Mother Doesn't Know” by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;
  • Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;
  • “Crazy Lady!” by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and
  • “It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.

Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the Alice series of books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

But don't limit yourself - there's tons of great books out there that someone or group that takes their authority (real or perceived) too seriously would prefer you to not read. Vonnegut, Twain, Burroughs, among others have plenty o' reading just waiting for you.

Image via Marisacat. All the rest thanks to Make Some Noise!

Postscript to the preceding

Then I'm really going to bed.

Two editorials came to my attention via catnip! Both cut to the chase and provide the torture victim with a human voice - those who've survived to tell the tale deserve to be heard. Here's a clip from the first one, Does it Work?
A few years ago, as I worked on a documentary film about torture survivors in exile from my native Haiti, I met a young woman who under questioning by a military officer was slapped until she became deaf in one ear, was forced to chew and swallow a campaign poster, and was kicked so hard in the stomach by booted feet that she kept slipping in and out of consciousness in a pool of her own urine and blood. Another woman had an arm chopped off and her tongue sliced in two before she was dumped in a mass grave, miles from her home.

When I met these women, some time had passed since their ordeals. But they could still feel the hammering of the blows and hear the menacing voices, threatening to drown them, dismember them and set them on fire. The younger woman, Marie Carmel, remembers thinking about her mother. Manman will surely die if I'm killed, she thought. I have to stay alive for her. Alerte, whose arm and tongue were severed, kept thinking about her children as she climbed out of the corpse-filled pit and crawled to the side of the road where she found help. Both had no idea how much pain they could endure until then. They wanted to live, they remembered, to defy their torturers, to tell their stories.

There is no need for torture," wrote Jean-Paul Sartre. "Hell is the other." Those women saw hell and came back. However, neither one told their torturers what they wanted to know. Marie Carmel did not reveal the names of her fellow pro-democracy activists. Alerte did not divulge the whereabouts of her husband, who was the real object of her captors' search.

[snip]

While working on the documentary and researching the novel it eventually inspired, I interviewed torturers as well as their victims. I realized that torture diminishes us all by numbing us to human distress; the level of callousness in the society rises, with once unimaginable acts suddenly charted and rationalized.

[snip]

After first reading it as a young girl newly escaped from Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship in Haiti, I recently rediscovered a poem called "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forché. The narrator describes dining with a dictator who, after the luxurious meal, empties a bag full of human ears on the table.

"I am tired of fooling around," he tells his visitor. "As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go [expletive] themselves."

He lifts his glass of wine, and with one sweep of his arm, brushes the ears to the floor.

When the ears hit the ground -- like those of all my disappeared neighbors, I imagine -- the narrator notices that some of them are pressed to the floor while others are catching "this scrap of his voice." My fear is that when it is most needed, none of our ears will bother to catch any voices at all. Then will the tortured see any reason to live on? And if they live, whom will they tell?
The second editorial, under the title Are We Really So Fearful? describes the plight of a torture victim and ends thusly:
Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?
And speaking of the results of the torture "debate" here in the US, catnip reminds us that the latest legislative "breakthrough" is a sickening sham:
The legislation weakens international rape laws, does not repeal the use of torture by the CIA (providing the torturers with immunity from prosecution), gives Bush the sole power to define extreme torture and withholds classified evidence from detainees. And all of this is set to be approved by a Republican rubber-stamp congress in which 'fewer than 10 percent of the members of Congress have been told which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act.'

And where have all of the congressional Democrats been during this stage play? Sitting back and watching just like the rest of us. I hope they enjoyed the popcorn.
Real inspirational, eh? All the while:
Someone is being waterboarded right now.
Someone is being severely beaten.
Someone is suffering from hypothermia.
Someone is being sexually assaulted.
Someone is being bitten by a dog.
Someone is being starved.
Someone is so psychologically confused from all of the blaring lights and pounding music that he doesn't want to live anymore.
And someone is probably dying as we speak.
Think about this as you put on your Sunday best and head out to church this morning.

Yes, Amerika is fucking insane

A few bits for your consideration:

How long before kissing on an airplane (if you're gay or lesbian) becomes an act of terrorism?

Seems there are some folks on the Springfield TN city council who would like to make their parks, shall we say, whites only. This time Jim Crow is coming after Hispanics.

The US "opposition" party of record (i.e., Democrats) simply fails to do any actual opposition on matters such as torture. Rangel and Pelosi in particular deserve mention for their rallying around our own fascist dictator after Hugo Chavez' address to the UN. Pelosi should really be asking the more difficult question of how many "everyday thugs" populate her own party and if that has anything to do with her particular need to come to the aid of the everyday thugs from the GOP who occupy the White House. As far as Rangel goes, if he wants Junior Caligula to be "his president" that's just groovy. Just don't expect me to be sharing the sentiment. I sure as hell never voted for him, and given the tainted nature of the 2000 & 2004 "elections" I still wonder who in the hell was actually voting for this clown. As an aside, a quick reminder about Rangel is in order: he's the same asshole who keeps trying to reintroduce the draft (word the the wise kids, don't expect the Democrats to have your backs if the current eternal global war on terra requires more bullet stoppers).

These are sick times we live in folks.

From the mailbag

First up a quote (via Kentyah):
"When the leaders speak of peace,
the common folk know that war is coming.
When the leaders curse war,
the mobilization order is already written out."

-Burtolt Brecht
Next, Iron Sheik and Saul Williams, among others will be performing in Detroit at the end of this month for a benefit to "preserve affirmative action and to defeat Proposal 2." Where?
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30th

PRIVE LOUNGE

155 W. Congress

Detroit, MI
Looks like a good $20-$25 well spent if you happen to be in the area.