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31 January 2009

Torture 101


For over 20 years, I have supported the campaign to close the School of the Americas in south Georgia. All the while, there was this other military academy of torture that was even worse, that was probably the source of much of SOA's curriculum and that I had never even heard of. The author of this article, himself a "graduate" of the SERE, surmises that military interrogators would think something along the lines of "I survived waterboarding, so it's OK to do it to this guy". Well, I remember a top Pentagon / DOD official actually articulating that argument, with no apparent recognition of the essential sickness of what he was saying.
The thing is, both SERE and SOA, and also the "hazing" in military academies (not just in the US, despite what David Morris thinks - there is an ongoing scandal in the British Armed forces involving suspicious deaths of young recruits in training) are symptoms of the whole military culture that allows them to happen. That is not going to change by closing the schools, by presidential edict or by legislation. Not that I know how it can be changed. I thought bringing women into the military might help, over 30 years ago when I still had my idealism, but that theory has been quashed by the evidence at Abu Ghraib.

18 January 2009

Obama: "He's going to be very hard to say no to, especially in the first year."

Andrew Rawnsley of the Observer has a great comment piece decrying the easy cynicism of the pessimists about the upcoming Obama presidency. There are even some who glibly claim that they're sure to be disappointed by his inaugural address, what with his overblown reputation for oratory and all. Although, I read somewhere else, and it's more convincing, that all he really needs to do in the current feverish and desperate climate is step up to the microphone and sneeze and the speech will be acclaimed in history. So, who you gonna believe. Rawnsley identifies one definite strength that the Obama team can use, quoted in the title above, and attributed to an unnamed official in the Brown government.

John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey,1923 - 2009


Photo Credit: Associated Press Photo

Sir John Mortimer, celebrated barrister, playwright and novelist, died 17 January, 2009. He was best known as the creator of the popular crime series Rumpole of the Bailey, featuring Horace Rumpole, a figure only slightly autobiographical, as he never aspired to, let alone attained, anything like Mortimer's own achievements. He was also the author of the Paradise Postponed series, which was made into a great TV series, Voyage Round My Father and several other popular plays. As a barrister, he had a long career during which he also published books on the law and defended free speech in high-profile obscenity cases.

17 January 2009

Andrew Wyeth, 1917 - 2009


Andrew Wyeth died yesterday at the age of 91. Revered and reviled in almost equal measures, there was a time when the controversy of Andrew Wyeth's art was the biggest thing there was in American art, and some of his paintings, particulary "Christina's World" have become icons of the American image. But I reckon that somewhere under the huckster, the hen-pecked husband rescued by a woman from a domineering father, the rock-ribbed Pennsylvania Republican, the remote and fastidious realist, what we really had was a Zen master with an inherited gift. At least that's what I think when I see a painting like this one.

03 January 2009

Ukulele Orchestra of GB Anarchy in the Ukulele

I had a YouTube video here of "Fly Me Off the Handel" by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain but sadly YT has purged the video for ToU violation :(

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