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Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

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  • The question: Want to know if waterboarding is torture? Ask Christopher Hitchens
    Late last year, the writer, polemicist and fierce proponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq Christopher Hitchens attempted, in a piece for the online magazine Slate, to draw a distinction between what he called techniques of "extreme interrogation" and "outright torture".
  • The answer: Believe Me, It's Torture: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com
    poar01_hitchens0808.jpg
    The author catches his breath after undergoing his first waterboarding session. Photographs by Gasper Tringale.
    You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
  • Which catchphrases should be "thrown under the bus"? - By Ron Rosenbaum - Slate Magazine
  • Yasmin Sethi - Product Design - Alice Chess Set
    A Chess Set inspired by the novel 'Alice through the Looking Glass' where the pieces magically turn transparent when they touch the board. In ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll, Alice falls through a mirror and on the other side of the mirror, she becomes a piece in a game of chess. Inspired by this, the chess pieces have an opaque mirror finish, when they touch the surface of the board they magically turn transparent and reveal the identity of the piece contained inside them. When removed from the board they revert to being opaque, hiding the identity of the piece. This is a comment on how a chess piece has no value unless it is in play on the board. If removed from the board, a pawn and a queen are equal, in that neither have any value.
    chess1.jpg

  • Obama advisor Greg Craig: Adding insult to injury - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
    In today's New York Times, James Risen -- who won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing Bush's illegal NSA spying program -- has an article reporting on Obama supporters who are criticizing Obama for his FISA reversal and who are attempting to defeat the bill which Obama supports. The article quotes Jane Hamsher, Markos Moulitsas and myself and features the very innovative effort by Obama supporters to use his campaign's social networking tools to urge Obama to oppose the FISA bill (more on that campaign here). For his article, Risen spoke with Obama adviser Greg Craig, a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, and this is what Craig told Risen:
    Greg Craig, a Washington lawyer who advises the Obama campaign, said Tuesday in an interview that Mr. Obama had decided to support the compromise FISA legislation only after concluding it was the best deal possible. "This was a deliberative process, and not something that was shooting from the hip," Mr. Craig said. "Obviously, there was an element of what’s possible here. But he concluded that with FISA expiring, that it was better to get a compromise than letting the law expire."
    Craig's statement is flat-out false. FISA -- enacted in 1978 and amended many times to accommodate modern communications technology -- has no expiration date. The Protect America Act, which Congress enacted last August to legalize warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, had a 6-month sunset provision and thus already expired back in February, restoring FISA as the governing law. Thus, if Congress does nothing now, FISA will continue indefinitely to govern the Government's power to spy on the communications of Americans. It doesn't expire. What Craig said in defense of Obama is just wrong
    .
  • Barack Obama Disgusts John McCain by Heeding John McCain’s Advice on Iraq | Indecision2008 | Comedy Central
  • Seedmagazine.com | The Seed Salon | Tom Wolfe + Michael Gazzaniga
  • This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse: Stephen Baldwin | Indecision2008 | Comedy Central

 

Comments

Very respectable what couragous what Hitchens did. Much respect (even if I do disagree with many positions of his).

And there you have it. Straight from the mouth of a war apologist: Waterboarding is torture. I wonder if we can finally call it what it is now.

I wonder if we can finally call it what it is now.

Depends who all "we" includes. We probably have to get calligraph to give it a try before he'll call it anything but "physical pressure".

Very nice metaphor: when we leave the board of the collective, the hierarchy it supports is made null. The squares of ideology would be rounded, and natural society -- a star made out of circles (Parcheesi, of course, silly) would lead mankind into a new era of faith-based transformation.

Maybe next some Flash developer will think of making a program for the Harry Potter set that makes "wizard's chess" real for the little ones who grow tired of Halo.

Not to take anything away from Hitchens, but I believe a reporter already did this. I believe sometime last year I was watching Keith Olbermann and he brought up a reporter testing out water boarding and declaring that it was most definitely, who was subsequently fired by his network (presumably for doing actual journalism). I am sorry I do not have the source, but I remember thinking "I wish we had more journalists like this". I am not sure if Christopher Hitchens was the person I had in mind...but I am hoping that a more famous figure doing this experiment will bring more attention to it this time.

One more fun fact. Water Boarding was used during South Africa's apartheid as a way of torturing without leaving visible marks. What wonderful company we find ourselves in.

All those who assert that water boarding is not torture should be subjected to repeated and prolonged sessions of water boarding until they confess in writing that the technique is torture.

The irony.

Next try "sexual humiliation". (i.e. sodomize them with a broomstick for starters). Since when did forced sodomy with a broomstick become "sexual humiliation" instead of rape.

As usual, Dennis Perrin nails it,

"You'd think that being a cultivated voice for imperial war and general Muslim hate would be enough for Hitchens. After all, he's created a profitable niche for himself, the urbane reactionary whom domestic oafs can drool over and hold in awe, despite his hostility to sky god concepts and the power of prayer. But with his pseudo-waterboarding stunt, which Hitchens finally assures us is torture (in case you were on the fence), he risks losing that vital demographic, which is fine by me, yet should alarm him. I mean, if the David Hororwitzs and Michele Malkins tune him out, to whom will he bellow his coarse opinions? I'm sure Carol Blue gets more than her share as it is.

Perhaps the military will embrace him. He's certainly become enamored with the kids in camo, almost weirdly so. His straining heart skips a beat when a platoon marches by in formation, and you see an aging man who never wore a military uniform fantasize about the experience, seemingly sad that he missed out in his radical youth. But Hitch makes up for his wasted past, and appears determined to be that old fart in the basement Barcalounger, surrounded by Army or Marine kitsch, dozing off while the explosions from yet another History Channel war documentary rip across his plasma screen.

"The team who agreed to [semi-waterboard him] in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. These heroes stay on the ramparts at all hours and in all weather, and if they make a mistake they may be arraigned in order to scratch some domestic political itch."

You tell 'em, Gramps! Fucking faggot civvies with their "laws" and related Islamocommie bullshit! What do they know about real sacrifice?

If Hitchens is truly serious about experiencing life on the business end of empire, we should arrange to break into his home in the middle of the night, force his family on the floor at gunpoint, yell at him in a language he does not speak, kick him a few times in the balls, hood him, and drag him off to a black site where the waterboarding isn't choreographed ahead of time (and no safety words -- he can save that for his dominatrix), with plenty of beatings, sleep deprivation, and sensory derangement mixed in (a long Waco-style audio tape would be a nice touch, complete with the screams of slaughtered rabbits). I'd say a good two to three weeks of this should suffice, and who knows, Hitchens might enjoy it. The DVD special edition box set of his ordeal (yours free with a year's subscription to Vanity Fair) would give his career added freakshow boost. And really, isn't that what it's all about?

If you want to read some non-psychotic takes on our existence, do check out the invaluable Chris Floyd, whose work of late has been outstanding. Chris does the heavy lifting that's necessary, and having done my share in the past, I know what a depressing grind that can be. So show him some love.

Also, if you haven't yet, read this heartbreaking post by my pal Barry Crimmins. It's a courageous piece, and Barry's humane conclusions will give you what hope remains for our squalid species. As I've long insisted, comedians are the most serious commentators -- the better ones, anyway.

"Savage Mules" is still selling strong. I honestly don't know what to say, except thank you (and to Jon and Barry for helping). We're only a week in. Let's keep the mule train rolling through the election cycle. posted by Dennis Perrin at 10:03 AM

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 Our Special Specialness A chief requirement of the executive imperial manager gig, what we playfully call "the presidency," is to grovel before Old Glory while invoking God, Greatness, and Destiny. Most Americans demand this from their father-leaders (mother-leaders as well), so the ritual is routinely catered to, further fetishized by the corporate media. It's a strange, sad, sick display, borne of insecurity and fear, cynically exploited, thoroughly American. I suspect that we'll never be rid of it, even when the machines take power, cybernetic claws thrust upward, saluting holographic flags. Some traditions never die.

With Independence Day approaching (another zombie tradition, increasingly meaningless in a commodified world, though I do love setting off fireworks), tribalism is the main topic, with both Obama and McCain going through the motions to pacify the rubes. McCain's Biergärten enthusiasms are well known:

Here's another guy's story of experimenting with waterboarding on himself: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=448717

Here's another guy's story of experimenting with waterboarding on himself: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=448717

Many police departments require officers to be tasered before being issued one. It is said to increase empathy.

I wonder if the same policy might be used regarding our military. In other words, before being allowed to water board- or issuing the orders to water board- the solider, officer or executive giving the order must first face the "Hitchens Test".

Note: I am 100% anti-torture, however, perhaps this could be sold as an Obama-esque compromise.

Many police departments require officers to be tasered before being issued one. It is said to increase empathy.

I wonder if the same policy might be used regarding our military. In other words, before being allowed to water board- or issuing the orders to water board- the solider, officer or executive giving the order must first face the "Hitchens Test".

Note: I am 100% anti-torture, however, perhaps this could be sold as an Obama-esque compromise.

On that note we should get to listen to the phone conversations of anyone who signs the FISA bill.

See what I mean Jill Bryant? Obama is being attacked from the right (Syngas) and from the left (Norm).

Get used to saying it, "President John McCain". It happened to Al Gore and to John Kerry and neither of them had a Reverend Wright to contend with.

It does have a nice ring to it ;)

continuing what i was trying to say to you on the other thread, JoAnn:

obama certainly is-and will continue to be-attacked from both right and left. but isn't 1gm a place where those who support him against mccain can nonetheless critisize him freely? and if not, why not? is it because we're being "watched"? this is almost too depressing to contemplate. takes all the fun out of it. i can write propaganda for the dems, sure- but not for free.

Of course, Jonathan, anyone can freely criticize Obama. All I'm saying is that I have been reading these same criticisms not just on OGM, but everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

I'm worried. I'm worried to point that, frankly, I give up. I'm truly convinced that Obama will lose. I guess that after seven and half years of Bush, I'm feeling so disgusted that I can hardly bare the notion of four more years of McCain, and yet they are in a statistical dead heat.

And there are bloggers on other blogs who I've come to know as lefties, and they too are going after Obama tooth and nail.

I'm worried. And justifiably so.

Maybe all those bloggers are pissed off they were sold a false bill of goods.

You've got to admit JoAnn, in the span of a week, Obama has endorsed FISA, pledged to increase faith based programs, and now let the military commanders on the ground advise him on how quickly to surrender. Don't get me wrong, I like it all, but it is truly shocking!

If Obama loses, it'll be his own fault, not bloggers. Not unlike Gore and Kerry.

If Obama loses it will be because of his actions. It will be because he can't keep his word. It will be that he destroys his own chances by moving to the center. It will be because he is in the process of abandoning his message of hope and change and substituting Obama business as usual. I really don't think a blog with a few thousand mostly liberal readers will abandon Obama because of what I write.

I don't share JoAnn's pessimism it will take two or three more tacks to the right to do that. He's playing with fire here. I repeat if he loses he'll have no one to blame but himself.

It will be that he destroys his own chances by moving to the center.

forgive my nayeevateh, norm, but shouldn't moving to the center get obama more votes if he's seriously threatened from the right? are you saying that many million democratic voters would switch in disgust to nader or some write-in? or, heaven forfend, to mccain, simply out of spite?

forgive my nayeevateh, norm, but shouldn't moving to the center get obama more votes if he's seriously threatened from the right

Progressive values are centrist values, he just needs to sell them. I believe he's succeeded on healthcare and was until recently succeeding on the issue of the war, but seems to be backing away from that issue for what reason I have no idea. Huge majorities of Americans value the troops coming home over "winning" whatever that means. The problem with moving to the center is that it alienates those who believe his message of hope and change. You can see what's happening, progressives all over the country are saying, what the fuck. Many of us will support him anyway, but I fear that the new voters he's attracted will abandon him in droves, not to vote for McCain but to not vote at all. If his brand changes from hope and change to just another politician he'll lose. That's how I see it.

anyway, i thought everyone here pretty much agrees he's already firmly in the center,and has never been otherwise.

At this point Obama has not stated anything that could be characterized as a significant change on Iraq - period. He was challenged to go to Iraq by McCain, he's going. What is he going to say, 'I'm going to Iraq, but I will not listen to anything I'm told there.'? Reading anything else into his statements is pure speculation at this point.

JoAnn,

How many people attacking Obama "from the left" won't be voting for him? Perhaps I haven't been paying much attention to him, but Syngas doesn't seem to be attacking him from the right. In fact, his clip above is just there to plant doubt about his position on the left. Same with most of calligraph's rants - he keeps telling us Obama will keep us in Iraq. Hey, maybe they're right - I don't think we'll have much presence there in a few years if Obama is president, but maybe I'm wrong. McCain, on the other hand, will keep us there forever, or until we throw him out of office. McCain, in fact, is itching for a war with Iran - that's if Bush doesn't yield to the temptation first.

...in the span of a week, Obama has endorsed FISA, pledged to increase faith based programs, and now let the military commanders on the ground advise him on how quickly to surrender. Don't get me wrong, I like it all, but it is truly shocking!

Syngas,

This is interesting. You like it all! You don't actually say a lot about some of these issues, so I was not actually clear about your stance on some of this. I thought there might be some hope for you, but I guess not.

Joann,

From a purely political point of view, I think agree with Syngas however. Obama is holding a winning hand - the Democrats are polling ahead on every major issue - and Obama is backpedaling because - I'm speculating - he's getting some absolutely horrible advice.

I mean look at the absolute stupidity of the things Syngas says he likes:

“Obama has endorsed FISA” changes: A dumb capitulation. The telecoms broke the law, the Bush administration broke the law, and they started doing it BEFORE 9-11. Obama kicked McCain and Hillary in the ass when he called their gas tax plans bullshit - and every economist agreed with him - he came out looking good. Similarly, everyone who looks past the lies about national security and the FISA courts says the same thing - the inability to get warrants for wiretaps has NEVER endangered national security - not once.

"pledged to increase faith based programs" - Again, this is actually an issue Obama could have used to beat the GOP over the head. David Kuo excoriated the Bush administration on this - basically a cynical sham. The Bushies never gave a shit about it and evangelicals are disillusioned with it.

"let the military commanders on the ground advise him on how quickly to surrender" The American people were slow to realize just how totally stupid this line of "reasoning" is, but they know it now. Surrender to whom? We ostensibly went to Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein - we did that. Most Americans are figuring out that you can't "fix" internecine conflicts that have been going on for 1300 years. The neoconservative fantasy of exporting democracy has nothing to do with reality - it lives only at Townhall.com and in Neil Boortz's fevered imagination.

John McCain is an absolutely shitty choice for president. Not only does he intend to continue Bush’s imperialistic foreign policy, when he speaks he often looks close to senility. The Republican party has a totally failed the country. The only thing Syngas is right about, is this: If Barack Obama blows this, it won't be the fault of bloggers - it will be in his loss of confidence in the complete superiority of what he has to offer over his rival.

BTW, far more annoying to me that criticism of Obama 'from the left' is the constant mantra of "President John McCain - get used to it." We get it - your worried, and not without reason - but that line is getting really annoying. You were boundlessly energetic in putting up good post during the nomination fight. Now get out there and dig the dirt on McCain.

It's true Obama has not stated anything that could be characterized as a significant change on Iraq, but he ought to be beating John McCain over the head with it and he's not.

How about it Joann, would you like to offer a guest post bashing McCain. Pick a topic do a compare and contrast, and tell the world why they shouldn't even consider voting for the warmongering dinosaur named John.

OK, I swore off the internet but feel I should enter in.

On FISA, i have to agree with Norm. (but i am still mixed up, does or does not some of the provisions run out soon). I think he should have stood his ground that the bill was not a good one, that it would be against our liberties to support it, and play to the libertarian right and the left. I almost wonder if he is so confident the the dems will win big in November that they can repeal it.

Two, If you guys really have been following Obama for a while, you would have seen he was always going to play to the middle. (of course i like him for that as i am well more moderate than some of you).

First appeals to the faithful. Read all of his early speeches, think of his heros lincoln, MLK, lots and lots of religious talk. He told us he would go after the religious community, but that he supported separation of church and state. I think it is a good plan, i like it, i see no problem with it. It is smart politically, it may be smart governance as religious charities do good work, have some of the lowest overheads and management costs. If you think that you really really can have improvements in poverty, HIV and health care without getting the do good religious folk onboard with you i think you need to work in some non profits.

Second, his health care plan. This was plan he thought he could pass, it always was a plan that could appeal to some republicans. It was in some ways a compromise plan. That is why most of the true left did not like it, I liked it as i believe it is legislation that can be gotten through congress.

Now the final complaint of Norm, what is wrong with listening to military advisors?????

On another note to Joann, I think you need to stop reading blogs and readers comments. Continue with OGM, but forget the rest. In the real world Obama is doing OK. Get out of the house, talk to people. He still appeals to a lot more folks than you think. He does not have things in the bag, but having a clear lead early would be dangerous (look what happened to Hillary). My god he is leading in Montana. YES MONTANA. His campaign is going OK, even if I am pissed off at this FISA thing. Look at the polls (my favorite site is http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/search/label/today%27s%

Best polling site ever.

McCain may win, but my money is still on Obama. He and his campaign are still the best run campaign of ANY of the presidential candidates all year. People like Obama. OK Norm may not be crazy about him, but the real world does not spend their summers on blogs and CNN. The real world are not all dissapointed and hurt Hillary supporters.

Now speaking of the real world, i need to get out there in the sea,sun and mountains.

there is a much simpler metric by which any and all treatments of foreign fighters.

just ask yourself: what would you think of a foreign power that treated captured u.s. soldiers in the exact same way?

i am dismayed that the discussion has to date largely ignored this obvious point.

Ok my link did not work try.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/ and the Obama surfing song is lovely.... i"t'll be like voting for morgan freeman.".....

Tim to JoAnn

You were boundlessly energetic in putting up good post during the nomination fight. Now get out there and dig the dirt on McCain.

Norm to JoAnn

How about it Joann, would you like to offer a guest post bashing McCain. Pick a topic do a compare and contrast, and tell the world why they shouldn't even consider voting for the warmongering dinosaur named John.

Yeah!!! Go JoAnn!!!! (After your party and seeing some real world time, as k suggests.)

abandoning his message of hope and change and substituting Obama business as usual.

Wow. Self-contradiction in a single clause. The primary's over, Norm.

abandoning his message of hope and change and substituting Obama business as usual.

Wow. Self-contradiction in a single clause. The primary's over, Norm.

Ugh, sorry for the double-post -- I got some weird MT error and assumed it hadn't posted.

Interesting predicament for Hitchens: Now that he has decided that waterboarding is torture. what is he to do with his admiration for Douglas Feith? Feith was one of the top thugs using John Yoo to put the US in the torture business. This urbane warmonger role he's slipped into can be so tough on a guy.

Interesting predicament for Hitchens: Now that he has decided that waterboarding is torture. what is he to do with his admiration for Douglas Feith? Feith was one of the top thugs using John Yoo to put the US in the torture business. This urbane warmonger role he's slipped into can be so tough on a guy.

How about it Joann, would you like to offer a guest post bashing McCain. Pick a topic do a compare and contrast, and tell the world why they shouldn't even consider voting for the warmongering dinosaur named John.

Okay, Norm, I will. Thanks.

Thanks Jill. ;)

As much as I like Christopher Hitchens, even when he's wrong, this is a ridiculously specious argument. The fact that you find an experience torturous does not make it torture.

If you were to zap him with a taser, I'm sure he'd walk away saying it was torture. We don't consider the police using tasers (appropriately) to be torture. I'm sure getting shot isn't fun, but we don't consider shooting at an armed suspect to be torture.

Nobody wants to be waterboarded. And I certainly don't find any glee in people being waterboarded, unless of course they're guilty or are withholding critical information (just like I find no glee in people being put in prison or executed unless they actually committed the crime of which they have been convicted). Subjective evaluation of a system does not invalidate its utility.

Note: I am 100% anti-torture

That's one of those things people say because they imagine it makes them sound good, but is ultimately meaningless - like "I'm against war". I guarantee you there are situations in which you would be willing to torture, or even kill, a human being for critical information. You just haven't been placed in such a scenario.

what would you think of a foreign power that treated captured u.s. soldiers in the exact same way?

Perhaps you should ground your reasoning in reason. We are not fighting an organized military, which makes such comparisons ridiculous; and in any case when our soldiers are captured they are treated in a much more brutal fashion. This isn't kindergarten. The enemy isn't going to suddenly become civil and friendly because we put on the kid gloves.

There are historical lessons to which we can look for guidance, such as the kamikaze attacks carried out by Japanese soldiers in WWII. Things like the Geneva Convention (which does not apply to any of our current engagements) and other rules of conduct in warfare are for the 'pristine' scenario - the best case. It is possible for an enemy to structure a situation in which the 'rules of warfare' cannot rationally apply; in that case you have a choice: stick to your safe, non-combat-zone morality and lose, or adjust the parameters and at least have a chance at winning. The enemy knows the limits of our system, and they have chosen to operate in a way that circumvents that system. Which means new methods must be developed to deal with them.

like the Geneva Convention (which does not apply to any of our current engagements) and other rules of conduct in warfare are for the 'pristine' scenario - the best case

When Americans are captured as prisoners of war, the same argument as you are making here will be made.

What the hell is "pristine"?

like the Geneva Convention (which does not apply to any of our current engagements) and other rules of conduct in warfare are for the 'pristine' scenario - the best case

what war is a more "best case" then the worlds largest military in the history of mankind attacking 2 small third world countries while only threatened by a small group of radicals largely hiding in caves equipped with outdated weapons?

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