The United States of Torture

The more one digs into the senate torture report, the more depressing it gets. In addition to the details of what was done which are bad enough, comes the news that the US government paid the enormous sum of $81 million to two psychologists to come up with the methods, even though they had no “specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism or any relevant cultural or linguistic experience.” They apparently just copied what other countries had used, not to get information but to obtain false confessions for propaganda purposes. So right from the start, the idea that these torture methods were useful was not even credible and the members of the psychology and medical professions were complicit in these acts. You can read about these sadists here.
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The Daily Show on the torture report

Jon Stewart struggles to tries to find some way of injecting humor in reporting the horrors revealed by the torture report and the lies told about it, without at the same time trivializing the events. He manages to show how culpable everyone in power is in these acts of depravity, from the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Congress, and the intelligence agencies.
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Why should we care about royal protocol?

Some years ago in a post titled God save us from the queen, I wrote about the absurd obsession that even people in the US, especially in the media, have with observing the ridiculous protocol rules that the British royal family tries to impose on everyone who comes in contact with them. That post was prompted by the US media getting the vapors and reaching for their smelling salts when the Obamas violated some absurdly trivial protocol rule when they visited Buckingham Palace, caused by Michelle Obama touching the Queen.
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How to finely chop an onion

I am not a foodie. I do not seek out gourmet eating experiences and am happy to eat pretty much a limited range of dishes cooked at home, do not watch any of the many cooking shows on TV, nor am I particularly interested in talking about food. But ever since I read the book Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman that I wrote about here, I have been impressed with how rigorous the training is that chefs receive and the precision operation of restaurant kitchens.
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Diversionary tactics

Jon Stewart made an error in one of the examples he gave of police killings of black people and of course Fox News seized on it as if it discredited his entire thesis, which it did not. This illustrates a popular diversionary tactic of the right and especially Fox News and that is to try and find an error, however slight, in anything that reflects badly on them, their heroes, or the positions they take (whether be race, rape, the NSA, torture, etc.) and then try make the discussion all about that error.
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Pope truthers!

Catholic and other conservatives are not happy with pope Francis’s moves to put a kinder, gentler face on the church’s policies, even while preserving its essential doctrines. But the dissatisfaction has extended to the point where we now have truthers who are challenging his very legitimacy as pope, using some statements in a new book about him and his election.
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The religious suppression of women

When we think of the most misogynistic societies where the freedoms of women are severely curtailed, one tends to think of Islamic countries. But it turns out that any society that takes the religious beliefs of its holy books seriously tends to repress the rights of women, and this includes Christianity and Judaism as well. If anyone needs a single reason as to why religion should have no role in public life, it is because religious doctrines are incompatible with democratic values. Once you let religion get a foothold in setting government policy, it will steadily encroach, demanding more and more concessions to its beliefs
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