Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sticking to sports

I was going to rant about these people who believe athletes should stick to playing sports, that they're too dumb to hold court on matters outside of their job or have no business exercising their Constitutional right to free speech. I was going to point out how protesting and sports have always mixed, and that the history of such mixing in the United States goes back to at least the 1960s, if not earlier. I was going to mention how such protests are hardly limited to US sports, and that authorities have been surprisingly reasonable in allowing athletes to publicly express their support for the families of those caught up in the recent tragedies.

But then, in a scant five minutes, Andrew Hawkins of the Cleveland Browns gave a rebuttal to those meatheads and chauvinists that was so eloquent, so poignant and so heartfelt that it scarcely requires further comment.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

You did WHAT in my name?

For so long, we've been told that Team USA is the good guys, that we're fighting for freedom and democracy, that we respect the rule of law and hold firm to the values that make us great as a nation.

Yeah, well, talk is cheap. Team USA's actions speak much louder and paint a very different picture.
The CIA’s post-9/11 embrace of torture was brutal and ineffective – and the agency repeatedly lied and misled the White House, Congress and the public about its usefulness, a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee released on Tuesday concludes.
The methods of torture carried out by the CIA were even more extreme than what it portrayed to the George W Bush administration and went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits, which had revealed that agency interrogators subjected detainees to the quasi-drowning known as waterboarding, staged mock executions and revved power drills near their heads.
At least 39 detainees experienced techniques like “cold water dousing”, which the Justice Department never approved, the committee found. It also found cases of “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feeding” – the “lunch tray” for one detainee, which contained hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins, “was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused”, the report says – which in some instances led to anal fissures and rectal prolapse. Investigators also documented death threats made to detainees. And CIA interrogators, the committee charged, told detainees they would hurt detainees’ children and “sexually assault” or “cut a [detainee’s] mother’s throat”.
In case anyone had forgotten, 1) Yes, torture is still illegal under US law; 2) Yes, the United States ratified the UN Convention Against Torture back in 1994; 3) No, torture is not an effective method of acquiring reliable intelligence; 4) That tale spun by "Zero Dark Thirty", that torture produced the information that led to Osama bin Laden's capture, was, like most things coming out of Hollywood, utter fiction; and 5) Yes, false information extracted under torture was used to justify the US invasion of Iraq.

This is how the "good guys" behave? It's difficult to read the list of abuses performed by the CIA and pretend the United States still has anything resembling the moral high ground. The United States isn't cutting off people's heads, yes, but that doesn't make what the CIA did or the mental, moral and legal gymnastics of the US government to justify that behavior not evil. How far has the country fallen when not matching Islamic fundamentalists atrocity for atrocity is considered the baseline for "good"? Successive governments knew human rights abuses that could pass muster as war crimes were taking place at secret prisons overseas at the behest of the United States, yet they did nothing to stop it and seem determined to continue doing nothing. That's not evil? And this doesn't even include the CIA exploiting detainees for their own purposes.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Board of Accountability, on hiatus

As you may have noticed, the Board of Accountability has been on hiatus while I spent most of last week and this week in Hong Kong. Photos of the trip are available here.

I didn't avail myself of the fitness center at the hotel, though checking the scale after I got back to the apartment, I noticed I was two pounds lighter than when I left. Must've been all the walking I did while in Hong Kong. It's much like what I encountered in Tokyo -- the trains will get you most anywhere you want to go, but you'll still be doing plenty of walking.

The board will return next week. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with a photo of my prize capture from the trip -- the Solti recording of Wagner's Ring cycle. It's been on my wish list for years and, after stumbling across it at a CD store (!), now I have it. I rule!