Questioning assumptions, left and right - We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our fu...
23 hours ago
Hell yes, I’m a feminist.
Mind you, I don’t think this declaration comes as much of a surprise. I think people are aware of my general feelings on feminism, and I’ve not been shy about the topic before, when it’s suited me. ...
I don’t think feminism has been waiting for me. It doesn’t need me as a spokesperson or a leading voice. I don’t believe any woman has been wanting for me to be her “white knight.” As I’ve said before, it’s white knighting to assume women can’t defend themselves; it’s not white knighting to stand with them against the shit thrown their way.
But: I do think it’s important to let women know you do stand with them. I think it’s useful for other men to see it being done. To the extent that I have influence and notability, I’d like to use it standing with, and for, women. At the very least, 2014 showed me that it’s where I want to be standing, and to the extent that it’s useful, be seen standing.
1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.
Of all the odd mutations of American culture to be exported abroad, Japan’s KFC Christmas tradition may be one of the oddest. This month, KFC Japan will bring in revenue up to ten times greater than what it earns during other months of the year. Life-size Colonel Sanders statues—a staple in the country—will be dressed in red attire and Santa hats. On Christmas eve, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s lines will snake down the block, and those unlucky enough not to pre-order their special chicken buckets a month in advance may have to go without KFC’s signature blend of 11 herbs and spices.
And not having KFC on Christmas in Japan is a real bummer. In what appears to be one of the most successful fast food marketing campaigns of all time, KFC has for more than thirty years maintained a uniquely on-brand alternate history in Japan, one that makes fried chicken ubiquitous on the day of Jesus’ birth.
“The prevailing wisdom here is that Americans eat chicken on the 25th,” a friend wrote from Tokyo last week. He said he has “blown countless Japanese minds” by suggesting that Western KFCs may even close on Christmas. In Japan, where only a tiny fraction of the population is Christian and the holiday is a secular-slash-commercial affair, yuletide cheer goes hand in hand with a Christmas-branded bucket of chicken—or, as the Japanese call KFC, simply “Kentucky.” ...
If America is oversaturated with fast food empires and too well-acquainted with the Old South’s history to reinterpret it as a fun and exotic myth, in Japan there has been no such problem. There are currently more than 1,200 KFC locations in the country, including an “Adult Kentucky Fried Chicken” bistro serving pasta dishes with beer and “KFC Route 25,” a posh KFC in Tokyo stocked with a full whiskey bar. Not to mention the whole Christmas thing. There’s a countdown to Christmas on KFC Japan’s website and banners celebrating “Kentucky Christmas 2014.”
Since the day President Obama took office, he has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects — an official government program conceived and carried out in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed.
Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.
Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”
These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture.
So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.
In July 2002, C.I.A. lawyers told the Justice Department that the agency needed to use “more aggressive methods” of interrogation that would “otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.” They asked the department to promise not to prosecute those who used these methods. When the department refused, they shopped around for the answer they wanted. They got it from the ideologically driven lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods. Government officials now rely on the memos as proof that they sought and received legal clearance for their actions. But the report changes the game: We now know that this reliance was not made in good faith.
The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.
But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”
Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.
Host Chuck Todd asked Cheney to respond to the Senate Intelligence Committee report's account that one detainee was "chained to the wall of a cell, doused with water, froze to death in CIA custody."
"And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity," Todd said.
"Right," Cheney responded. "But the problem I have was with all of the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield."
"I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent," he continued.
Todd pressed Cheney, asking if he was okay with the fact that about 25 percent of the detainees interrogated were actually innocent.
"I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective..."
Interrogations that lasted for days on end. Detainees forced to stand on broken legs, or go 180 hours in a row without sleep. A prison so cold, one suspect essentially froze to death. The Senate Intelligence Committee is finally releasing its review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs. And it is brutal. ...
Contrary to CIA’s description to the Department of Justice, the Senate report says that the waterboarding was physically harmful, leading to convulsions and vomiting. During one session, detainee Abu Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded at least 183 times, which the Senate report describes as escalating into a “series of near drownings.” ...
In November 2002, a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to the floor died, apparently from hypothermia. This case appears similar to the that of Gul Rahman, who died of similarly explained causes at an Afghan site known as the “Salt Pit,” also in November 2002. The site was also called “The Dark Prison” by former captives. ...
At the Cobalt facility, the CIA also forced some detainees who had broken feet or legs to stand in stress-inducing positions, despite having earlier pledged that they wouldn’t subject those wounded individuals to treatment that might exacerbate their injuries.
Starting with Abu Zubaydah, and following with other detainees, the CIA deployed the harshest techniques from the beginning without trying to first elicit information in an “open, non-threatening manner,” the committee found. The torture continued nearly non-stop, for days or weeks at a time.
The CIA instructed personnel at the site that the interrogation of Zubaydah, who’d been shot during his capture, should take “precedence over his medical care,” the committee found, leading to an infection in a bullet wound incurred during his capture. Zubaydah lost his left eye while in custody. The CIA’s instructions also ran contrary to how it told the Justice Department the prisoner would be treated.
At least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration,” without any documented medical need. “While IV infusion is safe and effective,” one officer wrote, rectal hydration could be used as a form of behavior control.
Others were deprived of sleep, which could involve staying awake for as long as 180 hours—sometimes standing, sometimes with their hands shackled above their heads.
Some detainees were forced to walk around naked, or shackled with their hands above their heads. In other instances, naked detainees were hooded and dragged up and down corridors while subject to physical abuse. ...
CIA officers threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.” In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.
Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.
The torture used by the CIA were "not an effective means" of extracting accurate information or getting detainees to cooperate, the report found. Not once was there a 24-like ticking time bomb scenario which prompted the use of torture. Even worse, "multiple" detainees who were tortured had fabricated information or provided faulty intelligence under duress, while other detainees who were not tortured provided useful information.
Despite all that, the report says, the CIA deliberately misled the Department of Justice, Congress and the media by claiming that tortured detainees were producing valuable intelligence. The report said that "interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented."
Coercive interrogation methods included waterboarding, sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, nudity, slaps, slamming detainees against a wall. At least three detainees were threatened with harm to their families, including the threat of raping a detainee's mother. And it gets worse.
"At least five CIA detainees were subjected to 'rectal rehydration' or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity," the report reads, documenting in gruesome detail one such example involving detainee Majid Khan. [How did that turn out? Khan tried to commit suicide multiple times, including trying to tear out the veins in his arm with his teeth.]
According to [Ben] Emmerson ["the U.N.'s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights"], international law prohibits granting immunity to public officials who allow the use of torture, and this applies not just to the actual perpetrators but also to those who plan and authorize it. As a result, he said, the U.S. government is "legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice."
Human Rights Watch's executive director Kenneth Roth also said "unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of officials, torture will remain a 'policy option' for future presidents."
Americans tortured an innocent mentally handicapped man in order to get his relatives to give up information. Americans stuck a hose in a man’s anus and poured hummus into his rectum. Americans ran a deep, dark pit of a dungeon and slowly tortured and killed people.
We no longer get to wear the Awesome badge. It’s gone. We never get it back. We’re going to have to spend centuries trying to repair our reputation, and even if we become secular saints, it’s still going to be a huge stain in our history.
But no, we’re not even going to try to make amends, because Fox News is still our mouthpiece and Dick Cheney still stalks the earth, telling everyone that torture is still the right thing to do.
From 1616 to 1619, a series of virgin-soil epidemics spread by European trading vessels ravaged the New England seaboard, wiping out up to 95 percent of the Algonkian-speaking native population from Maine to Narragansett Bay. The coast was a vast killing zone of abandoned agricultural fields and decimated villages littered with piles of bones and skulls. This is what the Pilgrims encountered when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Not a pristine wilderness, but the devastated ruins of a once-thriving culture, a haunting boneyard which English libertine Thomas Morton later described as a “newfound Golgotha.”
The collision of worldviews [*] is almost impossible to imagine. On the one hand, a European society full of religious fervor and colonizing energy; on the other, a native society shattered and reeling from the greatest catastrophe it had ever known. The Puritans were forever examining their own spiritual state. Having come to America with the goal of separating themselves from polluted forms of worship, a great deal of their energy was focused on battling demons, both within themselves and at large in the world. Puritan clerics confused the Indian deity Kiehtan with God, and they conflated Hobbamock, a fearsome nocturnal spirit associated with Indian shamans, or powwows, with Satan. Because of this special connection many Puritans believed that the powwows, and by extension all the New England Indians, were bound by a covenant with the devil. Indians thus became symbolic adversaries, their very existence a threat to the Englishmen’s prized religious identities.
Meanwhile, the Great Migration of the 1630s was bringing in thousands of new colonists, many of them younger siblings shut out of an inheritance back in England, who were hungry for the opportunity to become property owners in their own right. There was a great need for more land. And so, tragically – and not for the last time in American history – self-interest, fear, and deep-seated ideology coincided. Indian-hating became the fashion. Religious piety provided a motive for armed violence.
In May of 1637, colonists from Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay, with a group of their Indian allies, set fire to a fortified Pequot stronghold on the Mystic River. An estimated 700 Pequots perished, mostly women and children, and the few survivors were shipped to Bermuda and sold into slavery. On the heels of the virgin-soil epidemics that had decimated the native population, the ghastly specter of genocide had reached the shores of America. In 1675, bloody King Phillip’s War put the finishing touches on what was more or less the total extermination of the eastern woodland Indians.
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.
The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week.
After nearly 40 years in prison, a man convicted in a 1975 Cleveland slaying has walked out of the county jail as a free man.
Fifty-seven-year-old Ricky Jackson was dismissed from the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County jail and walked out of the adjoining courthouse Friday about an hour after a judge dismissed his case.
The dismissal came after the key witness against Jackson and brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman at trial, a 13-year-old boy, recanted last year and said Cleveland police detectives coerced him into testifying that the three killed businessman Harry Franks the afternoon of May 19, 1975.
The Republican message was, "We're not Obama." No substance whatsoever... "We're not Obama." What was the Democrats' message? "Oh, we're really not, either." You cannot win if you are afraid. Where the hell was the Democratic Party? You have to stand for something if you want to win.