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October 6, 2007

ceci n'est pas un waterboard

It amazes me the mileage that President Bush is getting just from saying, "We do not torture," over and over again.  The denial has all the moral complexity of that of the protestations of the three-year old, claiming he did not do that thing he just did, in front of you.  Everyone knows that the government has been torturing its "high value assets" -- enough memos/briefs/reports have been leaked that the U.S. torture of "enemy combatants" can now be upgraded from vicious rumor to common knowledge.  And yet the president will thrust his tentative mug in front of a succession of TV cameras and repeatedly intone, "We do not torture," in a drawl so phoney that you'd be hard-pressed to believe that the president believes himself.

It's a flimsy semantic sleight of hand -- this thing you call "torture"?  We do not do it, because we do not call it that.  In fact, let us know what else you think we are doing that is bad, so that we may change the names of those things as well.

And I think that it is flimsy on purpose.  It's designed not to deceive anyone so much as to placate that sizable portion of the electorate that cares about honoring the Geneva Conventions.  The crazified remainder that does not so much care actually prefers torture, and wishes that it would be televised, which means that the administration's protests cannot be any stronger than, "No we're not, wink wink nudge nudge," because the administration's base would afford cries of "traitor" normally reserved for MoveOn.org to a president who strongly denounced and forbade torture as a means of interrogation.  So what we get is then a unitary executive who insults our intelligence with poorly drawn lies not because he is trying to hide anything, but rather because he is trying to walk a fine line between appeasing his supporters and not getting impeached for war crimes.

And why the kerfluffle over torture?  Three reasons, briefly: (i) it doesn't work; (ii) we've signed agreements (such as the Geneva Conventions) saying that we wouldn't do it, which is why we can expect that our soldiers won't be tortured if captured; and (iii) (most importantly, and as an answer to the "terrorists never signed a treaty" rebuttal), it's not how good guys comport themselves.  You don't have to be a very serious student of history to understand how important our human rights reputation has been to us over the years.  You don't get to have the moral highground just because you wear a flag lapel pin -- it has to be backed up by actions.  And right now we are a nation that whisks people away into secret dungeons, to be tortured and held indefinitely.  Think of a list of nations that behaved like that in the past century, and then wonder how comfortable you are with the company we now keep.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:35 AM

October 5, 2007

graphic designers: your jobs are safe

It's always interesting when the citizens take graphic design into their own hands.  I don't know why it is, but Americans are unable to compose a generic yard/garage/porch sale notice without slapping clip-art, sound effects and forced perspective in there like Andy Warhol vomiting onto a Jack Chick tract.  You see one of these signs from a distance and you know two things instantly: one, some sort of exercise of the first sale doctrine approaches, and two, a Temporarily Insane Person With Sharpie is on the loose.

Of course I have no evidence of this.  I did see one on the way to work that was almost sane, but was fortunately wackadooed out by this ballpoint pen illo of some sort of dog holding either a microphone or a lollipop.  Plus also, "books! CDs! costume jewelry!"  But I didn't snap a photo for posting; I'm trying to get onto that habit, start some purely visual communications, but it was not to be this morning.  But if you're looking for some costume jewelry tomorrow, drop me a line.

This line of thinking was occasioned by the GOP's unveiling of the logo for the 2008 Republican National Convention, which has been already roundly mocked on by the Usual Digital Suspects.  If you have not seen it yet, take care -- it is a very big image (600x600 pixels!), and it may well not you out of your chair, or, into your chair, if you are standing, as it not only very big but also an incisive and lasting monument to How Not To Logo Things.  Some have remarked on anatomical positioning of the elephant or the elephant's likely mindset.  Me, I find it a subtly charming silhouette of a pachyderm mimicking an old Jordache Jeans commercial.  And if the image of a five-ton mammal sashaying its hindquarters doesn't say, "Let's pick a presidential candidate," then I don't know what does.

Keep making the good spaghetti, you Grand Old Party.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:39 AM

October 4, 2007

james dobson is so crazy he just might do it

As much as you'd like to avoid the '08 presidential race, considering that we've already had a campaign's worth of news items concerning the election -- still a year away -- it's kind of hard to, if you do anything like read a paper or watch the news.  But today, amidst all the Hillary-is-ubiquitous, Fred-is-uninspiring, who-is-that-Mormon-guy-again headlines, a shining ray of sunlight:
Dobson Makes It Official: Religious Right Leaders Will Back Third-Party Challenger Against Rudy

That would be James Dobson, who is some muckety-muck or other of Focus on the Family, which is an organization not so much about families as it is about hating on gays and non-Jesus-Christ-loving peoples.  And that would be Rudy Giuliani, whose cousin-divorcing and 9-11-profiteering ways have not stopped him from becoming the GOP frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

What we're seeing is a looming schism (can schisms loom?) between religious conservatives and the GOP machine, whose fortunes have been tied so strongly to such religious conservatives, as the GOP found some alchemist's stone to turn the fears and prejudices of the religious conservatives into actual votes.  Now Focus on the Family and other standard-bearers are starting imagine that they wield electoral power, and, as such, are threatening to use it.  It was a shrewd (and cynical and evil) idea of the GOP to harness these religious folk, but once you strap that monster down and flick the lightning switch, the angry villagers with the pitchforks and the torches are only some measurable amount of time away.

But, nevertheless, if Rudolph Giuliani is nominated as the Republican candidate for president, then the GOP will create itself its very own Ralph Nader, splitting traditional GOP voters and hurting traditional GOP chances.

It's unsightly to revel in the misfortunes of one's enemies, but still delicious.

And while we're skimming TPM for election news, I offer you a singular reason to dig Fred Thompson.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:32 AM

October 3, 2007

stretching the veto to its logical conclusion

Ah, the casual synchronicity of the Yahoo! Headline Box.  As of 12:18p, the second headline:
• Bush vetoes bill to expand health insurance for children

And five headlines later:

• Ancient Inca children were 'fattened up' for sacrifices

I'm not suggesting that the President would eat children to protect private health insurance interests, but I am spending a long second wondering exactly how out of character that would be.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:20 PM

October 2, 2007

the dhs is aware of your terrorist children

Someday I will tire of stories of Department of Homeland Security alerts that one could easily dismiss as "kooky" or "crack-ass".  Today is not that day.

Yesterday, the DHS let it be known that airline security agents should keep their eyes peeled for, well, remote-control toys.  See, it's not the toys they are worried about so much as the remote control.  Because a bad guy might take one of these remote controls and, that's right, remotely control something.  So look out!

So finally Transportation Security Administration officials can add "remote controls" to the list that formerly only had two items: "sharp pointy things" and "asplodey things".

The NYTimes article also reveals a deep insight into the logical processes of the DHS:

“A lot of that work is sorting through dots,” [DHS assistant secretary Kip] Hawley said of the different intelligence leads that produced the heightened scrutiny.  “This is a dot that just came up with enough granularity that it seemed we should take direct action on it.”

Dude, dots have granularity!  Enjoy your flight!

Posted by mrbrent at 11:39 AM

October 1, 2007

hey you i know you

I'm currently in transit.  Was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and now I'm somewhere else.  Come to find out, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, there is no news.  Who'da thunk?

I know, these "away from desk" posts are spammy, but I didn't want you to think I was mad at you or anything.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:44 AM