Torture is bad science

Martin Robbins writes about how the US got suckered into playing torturer to the world. One reason is that we live in a culture that seems to celebrate torture: there sure are a lot of people wearing representations of an ancient torture device, where audiences will happily sit for hours watching torture porn in the guise of a religious movie, and where TV pretends that torture works every time as a way of getting results.

But here’s the thing: torture doesn’t work. Reason and evidence together ought to tell you that.

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This is where pure logic takes you

Read this letter.

We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it. 

We can stand aloof from the events and carry out thought exercises, and we can carefully weigh the pros and cons of war—this side did this horrible thing, that side did that horrible thing, this side has this worthy cause, that side has that worthy cause—and we can attempt to calculate who is slightly better and who is slightly worse, although even there it’s striking how often different people seem to come up with completely different sums, as if maybe, somehow human lives resist being reduced to simple numbers. Let us reason together, you say; if only we could get everyone to look at the situation logically, if only everyone would be a dispassionate observer like me, if only everyone would sit back and coldly analyze all possible actions to arrive at an optimal conclusion that maximizes idealized outcomes…

…and then we arrive at this moment where all the brilliant science and technology of our civilization culminates in this beautifully intricate weapon, designed, machined and assembled by highly educated teams of engineers and executives and politicians, aimed at a small child. One human being, persuaded by the moral calculus of their side that this action is a logical necessity, pushes a button and turns another innocent human being into shredded meat.

We don’t need any more logic. What we need now is more appreciation for the value of life.

What appalls me most is that the same people who use science and reason — principles I hold highly — as the supposed basis for a rational morality can somehow arrive at a justification for sowing injustice and death to achieve their more enlightened world. Shattered lives and stunted opportunities and a lifetime of oppression on one side of the balance can be weighed against greater wealth, happiness, and security on my side (strangely, this equation only works when it benefits my side), for a net gain in human well-being.

All it takes is for someone to pull the trigger on a child.

It’s the only logical thing to do.

Leveraging religion into money and death

The Korean ferry Sewol that abruptly capsized and sank last spring sank because of an act of god … that is, the depredations of a scummy Christian cult. A story in the NY Times today summarizes the causes. The company that ran the ferry was a front for a religious cult run by Yoo Byung-eun, called the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. He had a whole network of enterprises, all funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of Yoo and his family. One of the ways they profited was by cutting corners on everything, including safety.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

The art gallery was there to feed Yoo’s monstrous ego — he fancied himself an artist, and with so much cash flowing through his hands, he spent millions to get his photographs displayed at the Louvre. He claimed to be just about everything.

Mr. Yoo, who in his guise as Ahae cultivated an air of mystery by only allowing himself to be photographed from behind or the side, is described by the website of Ahae Press as a sort of renaissance man: “an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer.”

Con artist. Murderer. Ruthless exploiter. Christian. Or at least, someone who saw Christianity as another easy gimmick to prey on the rubes.

But hey, they spent some money on safety.

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

There is no justice, though. The elder Yoo’s rotting corpse was found in his garden, cause of death unknown. Most of his family (apparently one son is still on the run), who all profited from his schemes, have been arrested so at least there’s that.

So is that the new plan, Israel?

I’m now even more disgusted. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University made a statement about the ‘realities’ of their conflict.

“You have to understand the culture in which we live,” said Kedar. “The only thing that deters [Hamas leaders] is a threat to the connection between their heads and their shoulders.” When presenter Yossi Hadar asked if that “could filter down” the organization’s ranks, Kedar replied: “No, because lower down the considerations are entirely different. Terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them — the only thing that deters them is if they know that their sister or their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught. What can you do, that’s the culture in which we live.”

When Hadar said, “We can’t take such steps, of course,” Kedar continued: “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts. The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor.”

He isn’t actually saying they should start raping Palestinian women, but he just threw it out there as the only way to stop suicide bombers. It’s an actively evil proposition, and it doesn’t even make sense. Would raping their mothers and sisters suddenly reconcile Palestinians to Israeli occupation and oppression? There’s not much knowledge of human behavior there.

No more US support for Israel

They no longer hold the moral high ground, if ever they did. The massacre in Shejaiya is an obscenity.

Two small bodies lie on the metal table inside the morgue at Gaza’s Shifa hospital. Omama is nine years old. Her right forearm is mangled and charred and the top half of her skull has been smashed in. Beside her lies her seven year-old brother. His name is not certain. It might be Hamza or it might be Khalil. Relatives are having trouble identifying him because his head has been shorn off. Their parents will not mourn them—because they are dead too.

All of them were killed in Shejaiya, one of Gaza’s poorest and most crowded neighborhoods, which came under a brutal and sustained assault by the Israeli military today.

90 dead. The Israeli military was firing artillery shells into a residential neighborhood. It’s unconscionable, indiscriminate murder.

"Those of us who worked in Shifa can say that last night was the worst night of our lives," says Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor at Shifa. He has come to Gaza many times to provide medical assistance, including during the previous two Israeli assaults in 2008/2009 and 2012.

"Israeli impunity is a huge medical problem," Gilbert says. "Every single dead child and adult, and all the injuries, all the amputations, are one hundred percent preventable. This is a man-made disaster. Cynically planned and brutally executed by the government of Israel."

I’ve had people try to tell me that it is justifiable — that Hamas is firing rockets into Israeli neighborhoods. I freely grant that trying to kill random citizens with rockets is also unconscionable, whether it’s done by Palestinians, Israelis, or Americans. But how can anyone condemn one and not the other?

We should not be propping up the vile and bloody government of Israel anymore. Maybe if they’re deprived of the teat of unquestioning US aid, they’ll realize that they can’t afford to solve their problems with attempted genocide.

Although why a Jewish state would need any kind of compulsion to recognize that is surprising.

The Catholic honor killings

We’re used to seeing the concept of honor killing used as a marker for barbarity, applied to foreign cultures as a way to indicate their inferiority. I can agree that the principle is contemptible and ought to be treated with scorn, but let’s apply it equally — and the modern West is just as guilty. We’ve all heard about the discovery that 800 children and babies at a Catholic home for ‘fallen’ women in Ireland were discovered to have been discarded in a septic tank, after dying of neglect and abuse. Stephanie Lord calls this atrocity what it is: these were state-sanctioned honor killings.

The women themselves served a dual purpose in the Laundries. They were a warning to others what happened when you violated the rule of the Church, and they were financial assets engaged in hard labour on behalf of the Church. They were not waged workers; they did not receive payment. They could not leave of their own free will, and their families, for the most part, did not come for them; the shame on the family would be too great. Ireland had a structure it used to imprison women for being sexual beings, for being rape victims, for not being the pure idolised incubator for patriarchy, for not having enough feminine integrity, or for being simply too pretty for the local priest’s liking. Ireland has a long tradition of pathologising difference.

People did know what went on in those institutions. Their threat loomed large over the women of Ireland for decades. On rare occasions when people attempted to speak out, they were silenced, because the restoration of honour requires the complicity of the community. Fear of what other people will think of the family is embedded in Irish culture.

The concept of honour means different things in different cultures but a common thread is that it can be broken but restored through punishing those who break it. We are familiar with the hegemonic concepts of “honour killing” and “honour crimes” as a named form of violence against women in cultures other than ours. The papers tell us it is not something that people do in the West. Honour killings, and honour crimes are perpetually drawn along racialised lines and Irish and UK media happily present them within the context of a myth of moral superiority.

So 800 children died needlessly and were treated with that ‘pro-life’ attitude the Catholic church shamelessly propagates, all to the end of making sure women were kept in line. And even the lucky children who survived that orphanage were looked down upon by Catholic society.

The entire purpose of this disgraceful institution was to dehumanize women who didn’t obey the Church.

What most never realised was that the nuns tendered for the business of running these homes and received very generous government funding, equivalent to the average industrial wage, for each mother and child in their so-called care. In addition, they profited handsomely from the forced adoptions they transacted, which saw 97% of all non-marital children taken for adoption in 1967.

With that knowledge it is unconscionable that the youngest babies, who should at least have been breast-fed by their mothers, could have died of malnutrition as is revealed on some of the death certificates meticulously uncovered by local Galway historian Catherine Corless in relation to the Tuam grave pit.

A potential explanation can be found in the account given by the late June Goulding in her book The Light in the Window, on the Bessborough mother-and-baby home in Cork, where she worked as a midwife from 1951-52.

She recounted being shocked on discovering the nun in charge of the new mothers insisted on an ad hoc system of wet-nursing where children, rather than being fed by their own mothers, who may have been working elsewhere in the home, were instead assigned to a random lactating mother to be fed. June Goulding, a young midwife, found this practice repellent and quickly grasped that it was part of the dehumanising regime designed to break down the women so they were incapable of questioning the nuns’ supreme authority.

That’s some mistake

Boys will be boys, I guess. Here’s a comment in the Indian press reflecting that statement.

Last month, the head of Uttar Pradesh’s governing party told an election rally that the party was opposed to the law calling for gang rapists to be executed. "Boys will be boys," Mulayam Singh Yadav said. "They make mistakes."

The mistake: two young girls, 14 and 15 years old, were abducted from their farm, gang-raped, strangled, and their bodies hung from a tree.

I’m against the death penalty, but if that’s how boys are expected to behave, I’m all for walling them up once they hit puberty and not letting them out until they renounce all violence.

The perfect guy, the supreme gentleman

Seven people were murdered and another seven wounded in a drive-by in Santa Barbara by a deeply disturbed MRA/PUA. He considered himself a frustrated Alpha Male who was owed sex by women, and when he couldn’t get it, he decided to punish random women. Dave Futrelle has a complete transcript of his manifesto, along with the video he made (the video may disappear; youtube has been busy deleting copies).

Hi, Elliot Rodger here.

Well… this is my last video. It all has to come to this.

Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity. Against all of you.

For the last 8 years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me.

Girls gave their affection, and sex, and love, to other men but never to me.

I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl.

I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin.

It has been very torturous.

College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex, and fun, and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness.

It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me.

I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.

It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentlemen.

I will punish all of you for it. (laughs)

On the day of retribution I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB… and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut I see inside there.

All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would’ve all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them while they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes.

I will take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you.

You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true alpha male. (laughs)

Yes, after I’ve annihilated every single girl in the sorority house, I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista, and slay every single person I see there.

All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while I’ve had to rot in loneliness for all these years, they’ve all looked down upon me every time I try to go out and join them. They’ve all treated me like a mouse.

Well now, I will be a God compared to you. You will all be animals. You are animals, and I will slaughter you like animals. I will be a God, exacting my retribution, on all those who deserve it.

And you do deserve it, just for the crime of living a better life than me.

All you popular kids. You’ve never accepted me, and now you’ll all pay for it.

And girls, all I’ve ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration, but you think I’m unworthy of it.

That’s a crime that can never be forgiven.

If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. (laughs)

You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. (laughs) It’s only fair.

I hate all of you, humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species. If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing, to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood, and rightfully so.

You deserve to be annihilated. And I’ll give that to you.

You never showed me any mercy, and so I will show you none. (laughs)

You force me to suffer all my life, and now I’ll make you all suffer.

I’ve waited a long time for this.

I’ll give you exactly what you deserve.

You know, I think I kind of understand why women wanted nothing to do with this guy.

It doesn’t help that this severely mentally disturbed individual was feeding on a steady diet of the misogyny pouring out of various so-called “men’s rights” channels and websites.