Monthly Archive: June 2009

Jun 16 2009

The problem of endings: Review of Oryx and Crake

Almost everyone has at least heard of Margaret Atwood’s excellent futuristic novel The Handmaid’s Tale. I enjoyed that book and now can also strongly recommend her 2003 offering Oryx and Crake, a thought-provoking look at the future. It would be hard to summarize the plot without giving away too much information so instead I want …

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Jun 15 2009

On torture-21: The case of Abu Zubaydah again

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) What has emerged is that research by psychologists on “learned helplessness” has formed the basis of the current torture techniques practiced by the US. The goal is to destroy the victim’s mind until that person feels total dependence on the interrogator. It turns out that this is fairly …

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Jun 12 2009

On torture-20: The case of Jose Padilla

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) In the previous post, we saw how the US government, over a period of time, studied and refined the techniques of psychological torture practiced by other countries and then outsourced these practices to its client states during the Cold War. With the onset of the ‘war on terror’ …

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Jun 11 2009

On torture-19: The long history of US involvement in torture

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) There may be some who think that the revelations of torture that occurred in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, and the various “black sites” operated by the CIA in countries around the world are aberrations that occurred just recently as a result …

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Jun 10 2009

On torture-18: And now, executions without even a trial?

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) As I said in a previous post, practicing torture leads to the problem that you cannot then allow people to talk about the treatment they received. It appears that the Obama administration is now circulating a new proposal to solve that pesky problem by executing people without even …

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Jun 09 2009

On torture-17: Media double standards

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) I began the series of posts on torture with a partial hypothetical based on the true story of two American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling arrested by North Korea. I said that if those journalists were convicted on the basis of confessions obtained using torture, we would …

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Jun 08 2009

On torture-16: Obama’s appalling stances on civil liberties

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) The corrupting effect of condoning torture can be seen in the way that Obama is now advancing the appalling policy of “preventive detention”, allowing the government to hold prisoners without trial indefinitely. This means that the fundamental constitutional protection of habeas corpus has been abandoned by Obama as …

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Jun 05 2009

On torture-15: Media complicity in secrecy

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) One of the best ways to ensure good government is to have as much transparency as possible. When people are allowed to work behind closed doors with the promise of secrecy, abuses inevitably occur. The Bush/Cheney administration was highly secretive and unfortunately, when it comes to things like …

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Jun 04 2009

On torture-14: Torture and secrecy

(For previous posts on torture, see here.) It is not that torture never works but the history of torture suggests that in order to get a few bits of useful information, you have to throw a wide net for torture victims. In the cover story of the October 2006 issue of The Progressive magazine, Alfred …

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Jun 03 2009

Okie from Muskogee and Hardware Wars

In 1969 country and western singer Merle Haggard released a song called Okie from Muskogee which was a huge hit. Part of its appeal was the ambiguity of its lyrics. Released at the height of the Vietnam war protests with the country deeply divided, widespread campus unrest, and protests in the streets, some saw the …

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