Sunday, February 26, 2006

Torture and the Ticking Bomb (slightly updated}

Reading Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece on Albert J. Mora's courageous and futile efforts while general counsel of the Navy to end the torture of "enemy combatants," I paused, as I always do, on the ultimate Bushy argument--other than the one that says, "I'm President, and I can do what I want. Try to stop me." Smirk. Smirk.--the hypothetical case: What if you have a prisoner who has knowledge of where a ticking nuclear device is located and you can only extract that information through torture? This time I realized that I pause because I can't understand why anyone would treat that question seriously. If you know enough to know that this prisoner knows and to know that he will reveal the truth under torture--rather than lie or not break or die, which are the chief results of brutality--then you already know enough to figure out for yourself where the bomb is--and more quickly than you would sorting through the initial indirections of the hardened "terrior" you know is going to break. But then the Bushies who are asking this hypothetical probably couldn't figure it out, the same way they couldn't figure out the airliner attacks on 9/11--they had cell phone numbers and first names, after all, but we didn't have their last names--nor could they make heads or tails of everything else they had.

It must be emphasized that study after study has shown that torture doesn't work--the torturer gets what the tortured prisoner thinks he wants to hear or outright lies--indeed, I doubt the Bushies can cite even one useful tidbit they have gleaned for all of the prisoners they have abused.

Morally, there is no justification for torture--zed, zero, zilch. The greater good is dishonored each time pain or trauma is inflicted in the name of righteousness. The torture of one person is the torture of all people. More practically, it declares that virtually any bozo is free to torture at will. That's not the kind of society any sane person wants to live in.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Any Port in a Storm, or Port-o-Poddie

Today's guest blog on the jingoistic posturing over an Arab company managing cargo handling at six U.S. ports is by Bruce Stutz, author of the just published, Chasing Spring.

Don’t know what your take is on the sale of port to UAE but despite the fact that it’s put Repubs up against Bush the whole thing is just jingoism for political gain. I mean, who’s in the fray? Hillary. Frist. All the would-be presidents men (woman?). I mean I like seeing Bush bushbucked, as you would say, and bushwhacked. But it’s a stupid issue that continues this fascist game of “enemies everywhere” “never-ending war neverending” when the real enemies are running our own fucking country. I mean, torture’s okay, drilling the shit out of national lands—okay. Spying—okay. I mean I love, I just love when the mousy dems say--”Don’t get us wrong. We’re not against spying and wiretapping. We’re just concerned that it’s done lawfully.” Well fuck you demo-rats. I do care about spying and wiretapping. WE ARE NOT AT WAR WE ARE NOT AT WAR THERE IS NO WAR. Am I shouting in a vacuum? There are crazy people out there who’d like to stick a bomb up our ass but anyone who lives in New York City knows there are crazy people everywhere and shit happens. But you do walk out on the street and live life. I mean they blew up the biggest buildings in this city, left a hole in the skyline that’s still hard to adjust to, but New Yorkers are about their business while the rest of the country walks around fearing that any second someone’s going to blow up the local k-mart. Come on, people, get a fucking grip! But we’ve been Rummied up to wartime footing.

Anyway, this dock story’s a stupid diversion that appeals to the lowest common denominator in the U.S. Citizenry—Remember the Alamo, the Maine, Gulf of Tonkin-- Although, now that I think of it, our lowest denominator is pretty lower and more common than anywhere in the world.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lunatic Cartoons

Flemming Rose, culture editor for Jyllands-Posten, has a long essay in today's Washington Post on his decision to commission the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that appeared on September 30 in Jyllands-Posten, and on the cartoons themselves. It is a thoughtful argument for the freedom of expression, including the freedom to skewer sacred cows--or prophets. The Post wins today's Diogenes Award--given sporadically to the person, persons or institution that casts the cold light of reason on the myths, fictions, urban legends and lies that blanket our world in the suffocating smog of irrationality--for commissioning and running this essay.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unintended Consequences

The Law of Unintended consequences is at work in Iraq, as everyone but the unreality-based Bushies knows by now. Just consider this article by Megan K. Stack and Borzou Daragahi in today's the L.A. Times saying that the big winner in Iraq is Iran. The Shiites there must be wondering why they had to fight and lose a brutal, bloody, insane war against Saddam. More to the point: Reality cares not for your dreams.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A few of Dog Bytes' few loyal readers might remember a word I introduced back in September:

bushbucker n. 1. A person who ostentatiously struts through bushes while shirking their responsibilites.

2. A blame gamer, a poltroon who seeks through surrogates to blame others for their disasters.

3. A megalomanic fabulist who offers bogus justifications in seriatum for otherwise unwarranted attacks on individuals or nations.

The verb is bushbuck, most pertinently here "to seek through surrogates to blame others for their disasters" and "to offer bogus justifications in seriatum for otherwise unwarranted attacks on individuals or nations."

As all news junkies know by now, the Vice President, who appears to fancy himself a 19th century sport hunter, has spent much of the past four days in typical poltroon fashion bushbucking his shotgunning his 78-year-old hunting companion in South Texas. Thus, surrogates out that Harry Whittington was somehow at fault for failing to tell Cheney that he was coming up behind him, that there was no alcohol involved, that he waited until the next morning for the sheriff's department to question him because he and everyone else was focussed on getting Whittington medical treatment and on and on until finally today giving an interview to Brit Hume of Fox News--Cheney's favorite network--in which he took full responsibility for the shooting and that, yes, he had a beer at lunch, but that was hours before he shot Whittington--shot a man behind him, shot into the sun, according to the blogs. Of course, in the kingdom of the Bushbuckers that means that tomorrow, the Bushbuckers will announced that Cheney has accepted responsibility and thus the event is now in the past and no longer relevant. But the dog thinks that this time, he won't easily skate away.

Meanwhile, even the docile House Republicans are forced to face the grotesque incompetence of the Bushbuckers, from the Bushbucker-in-Chief on down, although they have kept the focus on the tragic-farce that was the flooding of New Orleans by Katrina--the Washington Post broke the story on the report on Sunday; today recaps and covers Bushbucker Michael Chertoff's testimony. But before we praise this Congress too much, let's consider this Post report by Charles Babington on how it appears likely not to hold hearings on the Bushbucker-in-Chief's plainly illegal NSA spying program. Thus is democracy lost at home.

Finally, the Bushbucker-in-Chief himself, the great promoter of "democracy," finds Hamas unacceptable as the democratically elected leading party of the Palestine, surely is giving at least a wink, wink, nod, nod to the vote riggers in Haiti, who want desperately to keep Rene Preval out of the presidency, and says nothing when his pal Mubarak scrubs local elections in Egypt. Of course, this Bushbucker in Chief also claims--and exercises--near dictatorial power. Incompetent, irresponsible, dishonest, hypocritical--those are the characteristics of our rulers.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Power of Symbols

To hell with hyperlinks. This dog remembers back to a conversation in 1969 or '70 with several Europeans who were bashing racism in the US of A. The dog's lack of patriotism takes second to no one's, but he had to laugh and tell them that the only reason Europe wasn't experiencing significant racial unrest was that the demographics weren't right for riots. Their minority populations were still too small to register on the political scene. The demographics have changed in some areas, especially major cities, and continue to do so. Racism, fear, prejudice and discrimination boldy strut through the land.

The keys to any multicultural society are tolerance, understanding, curiosity, fairness, justice, equality of opportunity, and they can be born of necessity--as in otherwise we'll tear each other apart--or of empathy, a desire to understand another person and their culture. That said, a person does not have to and, indeed, must not tolerate in their own or another culture, injustice, inequality and brutality toward individuals, women, children, and minorities. Although certain Christian evangelicals might like to forget it, Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple--no turning the other cheek there.

Ignorant of racial politics--and often deeply prejudiced themselves--any number of Europeans mistake delivering racist insults with freedom of expression. Ooops, a dogian contradiction, a retreat from previous blogs---negative.

Anyone can deliver an ethnic insult, just like any one can cheat another out of money. It takes a decent human being to forego the cheap slur, no matter the provocation. The editors at Jyllands-Posten, who first published the Muhammad as terriorists cartoons in September, and the papers that followed suit in the ensuing months were, it appears, after publicity and money--or they were making a stand on principal for merde. Jyllands-Posten cannot plead not guilty to bigotry and racism, even if they arose from a total lack of self-awareness, since just 18-months earlier its editors refused to publish cartoons mocking Jesus's supposed resurrection on the grounds that they might offend some people, according to the Guardian. Uh. Duh.

The dog has argued in earlier blogs that the right to free expression is fundamental, and so it is, even when the expression is designed deliberately to offend. I don't approve it, and I don't condone it, but I won't censure it. Exposed to day, it can be dealt with--I hope. And what of the speech that does actual damage to people--the shout of "Fire" in a crowded theatre, when there is none, that causes a stampede resulting in death? That cry was intended to provoke an event that would produce death and injury in a captive audience, whereas there is no "captive audience" for the cartoons.

It is becoming increasingly clear that racist, xenophobic, religious fanatics on both sides are using the liberality of the enlightenment as a shield--Jyllands-Posten and other publications to conceal their ugly racism, the radical Islamists to launch their own pet racist projects and use them to oppress humans, dogs, you name it. The hypocrites are dictating events on both sides, and the chief hypocrite, the Bushbucker himself, is calling for an end to the violence.

Every age has its name; this one I dub the Age of Hypocrisy.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lunatic Cartoons (reprise and newer material)

A question has come from a loyal reader of this blog as to the meaning of the last post regarding the forces of "self-righteous hypocrisy" with regard to the admittedly provocative cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. This dog confesses to finding the issue on several levels complex and difficult. Americans--some of them, anyway--are schooled in the ways of political correctness, which forbid certain types of "expression," and the dog himself looked askance when the University of Miami ran on the cover its alumni magazine last fall a headline, for a story about hurricane researchers, "Storm Troopers," observing that such a phrase was, at best, insensitive. This dog also has commented that the cartoons in question--link in the previous blog--while well drawn are not amusing or informative. They are provocative in a juvenile way, and the response they provoked was infantile--way over the top--manipulated.

There are several issues here. I don't like the fact that the University of Miami student newspaper ran a Holocaust deniers' ad in last week's issue--or that other student newspapers do the same. It's absurd. On the other hand, I believe that those ads should run so that people can respond to them. Many long years ago, a brother designed an insigna for an invented club that resembled that of the Waffen SS. He liked the lightning bolt but otherwise had not a clue until a WW II vet told him what his patch symbolized, and that was that. Cast the light of reason and skepticism on everything, this dog says.

What about the cartoons, which one could see as racist? Well, this dog holds no truck with religion of any sort, believing that "God" or "gods" or the "unmentionable one" has a lot of blood and suffering to answer for before it's worth so much as a nod. Anyone who wants to worship such a deity--go to it, but don't try to force your faith on me. Such a deity is fair game, however, as is any powerful figure, for satire, no matter how childish it is--and this dog is not fond of satire, finding it, except for Voltaire and Christopher Guest, a waste, and they are acceptable because they are so painfully on target. Our first obligation is to defend that right to speak and then to show why it is wrong.

Compounding the case of religion is that it is, as Marx said, "the opiate of the masses," meaning it is their guard against the atrocities, the poverty and suffering in which they find themselves. Yes, the paradox is self-evident. This dog was heartened to see that some Islamic clerics were trying to calm the crowds over the weekend, but it appears that in many cases the devotion of the masses was inflammed by "leaders"--"self-righteous hypocrites"--who use such events to distract people from their own failures, to duck responsibility for doing the hard work to improve society. These "leaders" appeal to fear and prejudice and ignorance; they preach hatred and intolerance. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Use the name "Dick Osama bin Bushblair" and add any number of variants--that's what you get.

There it is: The entire flap is beside the point, a smoke screen. These cartoons first ran last September in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and although they roused protests and cries for boycotts, the situation only got out of hand after Norwegian papers published them, followed by papers across Europe, wanting to take a stand. James Buchan has a good commentary in today's Guardian, although he is less forgiving of the insensitive cartoon publishers than I. The Brussels Journal has a good summary and the cartoons.

Are there serious, devoted revolutionaries? That's anther blog.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lunatic Cartoons (updated)

Briefly, for those who are curious, here is a link to "blasphemous" cartoons, compiled by For reasons having as much to do with fear, political correctness, and pandering to religious fanatics here and abroad, the American media has almost universally refused to run these images, which to this dog's sacrilegious eye are hardly worth the chest-beating wrath of the Islamists. It's long past time for religious fanatics of every doctrine to lighten up and recognize that they live a in polymorphous, polyglot world where everyone's survival is dependent on tolerance--and that means allowing free expression--and free expression includes satire, a long and venerable tradition in Western letters.

That principle is independent of whether the speech in question is juvenile--these cartoons ofd the prophet Muhammad are--or offense to some delicate sensibilities or ignorant viewers--these cartoons are. I use "ignorant" here literally in the sense of "uneducated." I'm talking about economically and politically oppressed people for whom faith is life and hope. The radical Islamists organize and manipulate those people through their faith; in America, the Religious Right does the same among born again "Christians."

I would say, though, as a few of us commented the other night at dinner, that if the religious fanatics want to live in a premodern world --fine--just let them give up their guns, rockets, explosives, cars, cell phones. televisions, radios, planes, electricity, clean water, antibiotics, computers, numbered Swiss bank accounts, manufactured goods, and all other accutrements of industrial society--and let people who don't want to live that way go. The response to that proposal from the forces of self-righteous hypocrisy is: "What fun is that?" So they praise their lord and crack their whips.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rush to War

The Bushy's contempt for Congress and the Constitution should, by now, be obvious to everyone, but those who doubt it should read the Manchester Guardian's account of a January 31, 2003 meeting between the Bushbucker and Blair in which the Bushbucker made clear that he was taking Saddam out, with or without proof of his violations of UN resolutions, and Blair agreed. In fac, according to excerpts posted by Britain's TV 4, the Bushies even considered painting a U.S. U2 spy plane in United Nations colors and flying it over Iraq in the hope Saddam would fire on it, thereby "violating" various Security Council resolutions. War would follow. U.S. violations of the UN charter and international treaties didn't matter.

The fix was on, and the result is everywhere apparent, and there is no one in Washington or London or any other capital to hold these war criminals accountable. That is our great shame. But more profoundly it points to the general failure of the American and British political systems to control their chief executives. So much for "democracy."

And I'm not exempting the spineless Democrats who endorsed this obscenity, either.

Phillippe Sands, a Bitish human rights lawyer and author of Lawless World, obtained and released the notes of the meeting, which contain other useful and damning information, including the Bushbucker's assertion that internecine fighting would not be a problem.

At this writing, like the Downing Street memos before it, this revelation has caused barely a ripple in the mainstream American media, which is--yes, I use the singular verb with the collective noun--more fascinated with Muslim hysteria over crude cartoons of Muhammad, who, like Allah, is not to be portrayed. The newspapers and magazines across Europe apparently wanted to take a stand in favor of freedom of expression and against religious fanaticism--and they should be applauded for that; indeed, maybe the cartoonists could next time offend everyone by portraying jesus, moses, muhammad, buddha, lao-tse, confucius, marx, and mary magdalena as superheroes capturing a great satan wrapped in the American flag, with the face of George Bush and the body of Dick Cheney--or would that be offensive? Printing the cartoons is a rather juvenile way of making a point, but then the Islamists' response is no less childish. That said, I'm reminded of the response in the U.S. to the excrement-coated madonna on exhhibit at the Brooklyn Art Museum a few years ago, with then Mayor Rudi Giulliani leading the hypocrites' chorus of condemnation.

It's been said often and by many shrewd observers, but it bears repeating: We are in a new Dark Age, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.