Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture Unto Others

Recently, I was holding a conversation with someone and they argued that the problem with this hullabaloo over water-boarding is not the fact that it might be torture. To him, the problem was that we allowed the media to have too much access to our military and that people are acting as if we are torturing little old ladies. His feeling was that we aren't torturing people at all.

Aw, reality check, we aren't talking about people getting roughed up for their political statements, we are talking about animals who think it's a great thing to kill as many Americans as possible.

The single most important thing that should have been learned from this is to never allow the media near the military and never admit to having captured terrorists, ever. This moral superiority bullshit is tiresome, neither the Constitution nor the Geneva accords protect these animals.
and
I am soooo sorry, I didn't realize we were abducting little old ladies down the street to waterboard, how silly of me.

What our soldiers deserve is every chance we can give them to win and survive without the necessity to tell their stories unless they want to.

Dehumanizing the enemy is essential to the process of war. In the case of fanatics who crash airliners into office buildings the dehumanization was accomplished for us by their leaders.

You may be perfectly content to have your loved ones or even your nation buried in the moral high ground, but I am not.

You can make all of the lists you like but you are correct in one aspect. When it comes to military operations I am 100% against transparency in any form.

I don't appreciate having my loved ones chasing these bastards around while the press warns them not to use their satellite phones and assures them that we won't try to get information from them if their caught.

Now you can slice and dice my opinion any way you want, if your smugness is more valuable to you than the lives of our own people then I've already wasted too much time on you.
I'd love to have gone into the ageism inherent in that comment, but, given the circumstances and the audience, I was sure it would have been pointless. The argument that it's okay to treat (non-human) animals this way is also more than a little problematic, but that definitely would have derailed the conversation before it could even begin.

This conversation contained elements of so many arguments that I've seen over the past few days, that I thought it would be a good one for me to use to address some of the flawed assertions that are being used to excuse what our government has engaged in.

Part of the problem with excuses for this torture that are based on who we've used it on just don't work because we still don't know just who has and hasn't been water-boarded. For all we know, it could be little old ladies being tortured in this way. Not that it would matter to some of these folks, right? Because the ends justify the means, right? Only, we don't have any proof that it actually accomplished anything that couldn't be accomplished some other way. In fact, the evidence is piling up that this torture didn't help us at all. According to Ali Soufan, a F.B.I. supervisory special agent,

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
and
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.
There was one thing that I think the person got right. Dehumanization is essential in a war. That's what makes it possible for people to justify slaughtering each other. It's what makes it possible for our soldiers to slaughter others and it's what makes it possible for others to justify slaughtering us. Since I don't want to see our soldiers slaughtered like dogs in the streets, I don't think that dehumanizing people is a good idea. Maybe someone thinks that what our leaders have done makes it okay for this to be done to our soldiers, but I'm just not buying it. Therefore, I'm not buying it when someone says that it's okay to torture because the folks we are doing it to are "animals". Dehumanization is unethical, always. Furthermore, you choose to dehumanize people. No fanatic sitting in a desert in Pakistan can force you or me to do anything. So many people want to talk about how other people should show more responsibility, but they are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions.

The idea that we will be "buried in the moral high ground" is just bollocks. Where's the evidence that this is what will occur? There are plenty of nations that have decided against torturing people and they haven't gone the way of the Dodo. When we sacrifice the moral high ground, all we do is make it even less likely that anyone will give a damn about what happens to us when we are attacked. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have shown us how well that works out! We don't have enough soldiers to be able to go it alone, so we have to rely on convincing other people that they should come and defend us. To some, that might sound like a great position to be in, but I'd rather not have to go there.

As for those who have loved ones fighting in these wars, if you don't want them to die over there, then it is illogical for you to defend torture, because as long as we are engaging in torture, there will be people who are willing to attack and kill us in return for what we've done. American torture can only lead to tortured Americans.

This is the information age and, as Stewart Brand rightly noted, "Information wants to be free". In other words, you can't keep information out of people's hands simply by trying to keep it hidden. As long as information can get out, it eventually will get out. Trying to keep the media away won't change that. Any military personnel that wants to smuggle in a camera can do so, one way or another. That is fairly evident from how much soldiers have recorded and disseminated even without the aid of media accompanying them.

You can call it being smug if you want. I call it being intelligent and ethical. Where I'm from, that still means something. That "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing that a certain guy talked about a long time ago is just as much for our own protection as it is for the protection of others. But maybe some people think that guy was wasting his time, too. At this point, I wouldn't blame someone for thinking that the human species is beyond redemption.

Bristol's Age Is No Excuse

With regards to Bristol:

I don't think that 18 is a great age to have a baby. I had my daughter at 18 and I've spent her whole life encouraging her to wait longer than I did. Like Bristol, I belonged to one of those hypocritical Christianist groups that didn't give a shit about women but enforced anti-reproductive justice principles. However, I made the best of my situation and I've done a better job than many of my friends who waited a decade longer to have kids.

That's why I don't think it's fair to really blame Bristol's behavior on her age. I was 18 and I made the decision that, regardless of whether her father and I would be together, I would always do my best to facilitate a relationship between the two of them. I also made the decision not to ever say anything negative about him in her presence. I firmly believe that it is unloving to do otherwise.

My mother, who I lived with at the time, gave me good guidance in these matters. She was a great role model because, when she and my dad divorced, she did the exact same thing. My mother would never say anything negative about my father because, as she said, he is a part of us and what she says about him might also make us feel as if she feels that way about us.

At the same time, my mother made it clear that my child was my responsibility and she wasn't going to coddle me and encourage behavior she didn't agree with by taking on of my maternal responsibilities. That's why I don't think that Sarah Palin has any responsibility to stay home and take care of Bristol's baby. Grandmothers these days aren't going to go along with sitting at home baking cookies and knitting sweaters any more. Nor should they!

With regards to S. Palin and her own baby:

I think that parents should feel free to make whatever arrangements are best for their child(ren). Sometimes that means having the father provide the majority of care, while the mother works outside of the home. While I have no desire to see S. Palin anywhere near a government I have to live under, it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that she isn't a stay-home mom. Her positions are more than enough to convince me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Baggers Need a Dick Armey and Other Related LULZ

Today is Tax Day in the USA. It's not something that people usually celebrate. However, this year is different. All around the nation, people are gathering together to participate in events to voice their displeasure with...well, with everything, it seems. If you haven't heard about this, I don't know where you've been hiding for the past few weeks. Nevertheless, there's no reason why you should miss out on the lulz this movement has inspired.

So, let's get this party started, shall we? How about a look at some of the Epic Fails?

The woman being discussed in this first link is so full of fail that I wish she wouldn't have identified herself as a person with disabilities.

Glen Beck doesn't think that New York is a reflection of "real America"
, despite the fact that it is, you know, one of the oldest cities in the USA.

Neil Cavuto thinks that there's not much of a difference between 5,000 and 15,000 people in attendance at a tea party event.

Now let's check out the best of tea-bagging related coverage:


Rachel Maddow almost made me have an asthma attack from laughing during her report on Tea Party events scheduled for today. She gets extra points for including a guest who was able to get through the entire thing with a straight face.



I had to save David Schuster for last. This video is pure awesomesauce.



By the way, if you don't know what tea-bagging really means, you can see it here.

Tea-Bagging 101

Update: On Huffington Post, a commenter puts the number of participants into perspective.

"The president drew this many people to six different rallies. Or more. And better than twice this many people joined him in person on election night. 30 times as many showed up to see him inaugurated."

Sense: This Video Makes None



Okay, I grew up in a fundamentalist brand of Christianity and even I can't figure out what the hell this is about. What message were they trying to get across? Is it supposed to convince people that they should want to be Christians? Are they trying to make an argument for forcing everyone to believe that we matter to God, so that fewer white kids will want to shoot people to death? Can someone explain this to me? Does anyone care to take a shot at interpreting this video for me?

Meanwhile, enjoy this de-motivational poster.



Photo Description: A Teen-aged boy, dressed in a tuxedo, stands on a paved sidewalk. From the amount of sun-light, it appears to be mid-day. The boy in the tuxedo is posing for the picture while holding a sewing machine in his left hand. In the background, there are three police officers standing on the sidewalk talking to a man wearing a UPS uniform. A UPS truck is toppled over in the ditch next to the sidewalk where the men stand. Below the photo, a caption reads, "SENSE This picture makes none."

Monday, April 13, 2009

ZOMG! Islam is so-oo-oo violent!

You know, this stuff really gets old. I can't tell you how sick to death I am of people talking about how horrible Islam is towards women and girls. It's not that I don't think that people who are Muslim can be abusive towards women--of course they can. What I tire of is those who don't really care about the abuse of women; they just want to use this as a means of proving how superior their religion is. Today, while reading the articles about Nour Hadid, I kept finding more of these sort of comments.

It has always amazed me how people who obviously have never read the entire Bible (or the Qu'ran) will actually have the audacity to try to claim what is and isn't in it. For those who think that a few verses from the Qu'ran can define an entire religion, feel free to chew on these and tell me what they say about Christianity:

"Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women..." (Ezekiel 9:6)

"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." (Psalms 137: 9)

"Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, there is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him; so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them, and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning, and when the day began to spring, they let her go....and her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way, and behold the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold....and when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel." (Judges 19:22,29)

It should be noted that there are thousands of Christian religious leaders who adamantly proclaim that everything in the Bible is true and accurate and that following it is the only way to please God.

Police Force Woman To Take Picture In Her Underwear

For the past few days, I've been reading about a story that's been making the rounds on various right-wing websites. It's about the events surrounding a recent arrest. On April 5th, Nour Hadid was arrested and charged with the murder of her two year-old niece, Bhia. However, it isn't the tragic death of this child that has made this incident newsworthy to many people. Instead, some people are indignant about the fact that Hadid objected to the police in Cook County, Illinois forcing her to take a picture in her underwear.

Like many other Muslim women, Hadid wears hijaab whenever she is outside her home. However, for her police photo, her outer garment was taken from her. In the photograph, she can be seen in her underwear, attempting to use her hands to cover her chest. It's quite easy to see that she is truly mortified.

I thought about including the picture in this post, but I decided against it. I feel like I'd be showing the same lack of respect for rights that others are exhibiting with this incident. Some people are using this story as another opportunity to express their xenophobia. The comments can be found in every conversation that I've seen so far.

"You come to our country, there are certain laws, cultural values and codes of conduct that we've had for 230 years. If you don't accept them, then kindly get the fuck out. And tell your neighbors back in your pissant little country to stay the fuck out in the future."

"You know how to tell when an Ayrab goes thru puberty? When he takes his diaper off his butt and wraps it around his stupid head! I despise those jerks walking around this country acting like they're hot stuff on a stick."

"I say we respect her culture - she said she was guilty so it’s time to bury her waist deep and stone her to death. The scarf is optional."

"Women have fought long and hard to gain the freedoms we have, and even though there are plenty of bimbos on our landscape who could serve as poster children for harsher controls on women (Octo-mom comes to mind), still I don’t want our society, with all of its shortcomings, to devolve into some sort of medieval mindset."

No one has a right to see any part of my body. The sheer number of fake ids in circulation are proof that being able to see faces doesn't ensure that we know we have the right person when we see one. The people in those "pissant little countries" have been living here since before this nation was created. Their way of life is just as American as that of the average person walking around here. Furthermore, there are ways of dealing with this issue that do not violate the religious beliefs of Muslims. In other countries, female police officers deal with situations where a woman's face must be seen. It's just that simple. Once a female officer has established who the woman is, then there is no need to de-robe her.

I did see one comment that explains why forcing Hadid to take off her covering in the photograph doesn't really help the police investigation.

"The purpose of a mug shot is to id the defendant to potential witnesses viewing the photo, hence not allowing some persons to alter their appearance before the photo is taken. That is not relevant here: she was not arrested in the act of committing a crime, and presumably came to the authorities’ attention when they began looking for suspects in the home after the little girl was reported dead to the authorities. Since the murder apparently occurred within the home, presumably any witness already knows what she looks like."
In fact, those who believe in personal liberty should support people being able to live according to their religious beliefs, to the extent that they are not trying to force others to join them. It's no more reasonable to say that we have a right to see everyone's face than it is reasonable to claim we have a right to see everyone's genitalia.

Also, it seems that many of the Americans weighing in on this incident are unfamiliar with the concept of "innocent until proven guilty". It's funny (in a sad, pathetic sort of way) how they are adamant that people should be forced to adapt to the way things are done in this country, while proving that they don't even believe in doing so themselves. The hypocrisy of some of my fellow countrymen is truly amazing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Altruism Examined

Noemi has written a poem about people who come into poor communities of people of color to volunteer their time. It points out how it may not be as altruistic as it seems to be on the surface.

I recently met the girlfriend of one of my family members and she is one of these people. Every year she goes on a trip to some corner of the earth with plenty of brown people bearing gifts (e.g. pencils, paper, books) and "helps" them. On her lap top she had all these photographs of people and a story to tell for each one of them: This one is in his sixties and never learned to read. This one is completely blind but still came to the little makeshift school every day. This one braided her hair in the same way that people in their country wear it. This one hugged her and cried when she told them it was her last day.

All I could do was smile and nod and take deep breaths.

Boycotting or Engaging? Strategies for Success

You know, I've been trying to write a particular post for a few days now. It's about how some members of the transgender community have been calling for a boycott of two popular feminist sites.



For some reason, I just haven't been able to get out my feelings about this. I know there has been some disagreement about what sort of strategies are most likely to result in success. Heck, I'm not even sure what "success" would look like in this situation.

I stopped reading Feministing a long time ago. That place has long been a cesspool of white privilege and body privilege. The two Valenti sisters are both assholes who have a long track record of poor treatment towards marginalized groups. I'm not surprised that anyone would want to boycott their site. I've been boycotting it and will continue to do so.

My feelings about Feministe are more complicated. I have asked to guest post there twice and I really appreciated the opportunity to do so. It was really great to be able to discuss disability rights issues with an audience of that size. As much as I wish it weren't so, people with disabilities (PWD) just don't get many chances to do that. That's one reason why I feel less certain that boycotting Feministe is the best decision to make right now.

On the one hand, cisgender women need to show support for those who are relatively more marginalized (i.e. transgender women). A real ally doesn't disappear into the shadows when it comes time to make the tough decisions. I think that those calling for a boycott are making valid arguments. In other words, it's not just some petty gripe.

On the other hand, I do believe that people with disabilities should not have to sacrifice our voice for any reason. I want people to hear about how my sisters and brothers with disabilities are being treated in this country and around the world. I want to be visible in a world that does it's best to warehouse and silence people like me. I want to use every opportunity possible to speak out and say that what is done to us is wrong, even if it won't make anyone change their mind or their actions. Feministe is one of the largest feminist outlets online that allows me to do that.

I'm really conflicted about this. The more I think about it, the more I feel like I need input from others because I'm just not confident about what would be the best thing to do.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My Friend's Missing Teenager in California

Are any of you in California? If so, I'd really appreciate it if you'd take a look at this flyer. My friend's daughter is missing and her parents are desperately looking for her. You can click on the flyer at the bottom on this post to see her details. Any assistance in locating her would be greatly appreciated. Below this is a message from her father. Feel free to e-mail it to anyone you may know who resides in California.

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WILL YOU PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND MY DAUGHTER BY PASSING THIS ALONG TO ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. MY DAUGHTER, MARI'KEYANA H. FERRELL, HAS BEEN MISSING FOR THE PAST THREE, ALMOST FOUR DAYS. WE HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL CLUES, LEADS AND POSSIBILITIES - YOU MAY BE OUR ONLY HOPE. ATTACHED IS A PICTURE AND CONTACT INFO IF SHE IS SEEN. MY FAMILY IS BELIEVING GOD THAT SHE IS SAFE; HOWEVER, WE MAY ONLY BE ABLE TO REALIZE OUR BELIEF WITH THE HELP OF ONE OF YOU. IF YOU KNOW HER AND YOU SEE HER OR KNOW OF SOMEONE WHO HAS SPOKEN TO HER PLEASE TELL HER TO CALL HOME. IF SHE DOES NOT WANT TO COME HOME, THAT'S FINE, WE JUST NEED TO KNOW THAT OUR BABY GIRL IS SAFE AND SOUND. WE IMPLORE YOU ALL TO, IN ADDITION TO CALLING THE CONTACT NUMBERS LISTED ON THE FLYERS TO ENCOURAGE HER TO CALL 1 800 RUN AWAY, WHICH WILL GIVE HER ANY ASSISTANCE THAT SHE MAY NEED WITH SHELTER, CLOTHING AND FOOD AND THEY WILL ALSO ALLOW HER TO LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR US SO THAT WE KNOW THAT SHE IS SAFE. ALONG WITH ANY OTHER HELP THAT YOU MAY BE WILLING AND ABLE TO OFFER, WE ARE ESPECIALLY ACCEPTING OF YOUR PRAYERS. THANKING YOU ALL IN ADVANCE . . . . . . . . . WORRIED FATHER,

Raymond H. Tyner Jr
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