Just like the Nazi torturers, the CIA documented its work…

December 11, 2014

I just want to add a comment to my last post. I was listening to one of the ubiquitous right-wing talk shows and it was noted that the Senate committee report on the issue of CIA torture included no interviews. Well it is no secret that the report was partisan on the Democratic side, partly because Republicans opted out of the report.

But maybe they did not need interviews. I mean it appears that the CIA included so much detail in its own reports.

Wasn’t that the case with the Nazis in WWII? They recorded everything, even left some awful photos and films for the allies to review at their trials…

The original post follows:

Concerning the just-released Senate report on the U.S. use of torture on terrorism suspects or prisoners:

 

I have not read the report but I believe it is in no dispute among logical and fair-minded people that our government did engage in torture techniques.

—————–

UPDATE:

Well I now have read a news story account of what is in the report. Torture was inflicted on some prisoners but there seems little if  any evidence that it did any good. Of course those who support torture will say it did. But what kind of demented person tortures another?

—————————

And I for one believe torture is wrong no matter the circumstances. That is not us or who we should want to be.

On the other hand, we are in the fight of our life as a people and a nation against the forces of world-wide terror. So I feel it is not in our interests to dwell on all of this in public too long. But it did need to come out. There, we’ve admitted it.

Hopefully we won’t resort to such barbaric acts in the future. But that does not mean we will turn 180 degrees and make life comfortable for suspected terrorists. We many in effect inflict what amounts to mental torture by the mere fact an individual does not know what is to happen to him or her.

As far as holding people indefinitely, I have a hard time with that. What do we do? Well, I don’t know — probably that has to be judged on a case by case basis.

I wonder if there is any way to change the minds of these misguided souls.

And there are many who seem indifferent to the fact that the U.S. has practiced torture on prisoners. But aren’t we supposed to be different from the forces of evil? If not, then who are we?

P.s.

Oh, and there seems to be disagreement as to whether the torture ever produced any usable information. Kind of hard to prove whether it did or not I think. But how do you know what a person says under torture is true? And what is the veracity of anything anyone says under duress?
P.s. p.s.

But sometimes it may be necessary for the CIA or other such agencies involved in clandestine national security work to do things that would seem against our norms — I mean I think that is an accepted fact, even though we don’t like to admit it. But, well, it better stay a secret. And I don’t know if what I just wrote is right or wrong really — kind of a conundrum.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Homelessness is a problem and concern for all of us; without family you could be on the street…

December 9, 2014

They were talking about the homeless being thrown out of a camp called “The Jungle” the other night on a San Francisco Bay Area talk show (one of the few liberal talk shows left on radio). The camp is in San Jose. The talk was of throwing people out who had no place to go.

And if you really think about it, the plight of the homeless is closer to home than many of us would prefer to imagine. So many people are about one paycheck away from being homeless. And if you don’t have family to turn to — what would you do? Well you’d be homeless no doubt.

Here’s the deal: people are homeless for all kinds of reasons. Some are mentally disturbed — well a lot are. Many are alcohol and drug addicts. Many have troubles with the law. Some are runaways. Some are just down and out. And perhaps some souls just want to live that way.

Maybe it’s not against the law to be homeless — although back in the old days it was — remember the vagrancy laws? — but it ought to be against the law to create a public health hazard, a nuisance, and a threat to people who have homes.

I am familiar with the situation in the city in which I live and the plight of at least one person, whose name I will not use. She lived in a modest apartment near a creek. The homeless at some point made their camps down along that creek. Then the police moved them out of there. So what did they do? They started hanging out at a low-cost apartment complex adjacent to that creek. They slept on the sidewalks in front of that apartment. They hassled and even threatened the residents. The woman I mentioned feared for her safety and left. The police did respond to calls, but they can’t stand guard 24-7. And of course the slum lords are no help.

And you have to ask yourself: where do these people go to the bathroom? Or more specifically, where do they relieve themselves of their bodily wastes? Well, does a bear go doo doo in the woods?

The strange thing about some of these homeless people is that although they have to scrounge for food, many of them have pets. But that is another story.

As colorful as some of the homeless may be, overall they cause a blight on the community.

I think it is society’s responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. And on that account, it seems we are falling short. I for one would favor camps and shelters for them funded by the public. But of course there would have to be rules, and those who could do productive work should be put to work and given some kind of training.

Years ago I believe at least one county in California (Sacramento ) tried to make living in a county shelter a requirement for public assistance (for those without shelter already) but was thwarted by at court decision that held people could not be forced to live somewhere.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to live anywhere either. But if you choose to live out in the wild then you have to also respect the rights of the rest of society.

And back to the precarious situation of being one paycheck away from homelessness. People ought to realize how important family is. And as a nation we should rededicate ourselves to the proposition of strong families. I think that in the name of personal freedom and instant gratification there has been too much thinking about self and not about us.

Individuals should be responsible for themselves, and families should be responsible for their own, and then society as a whole should be responsible for its members, but in that order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ls


If Walmart is your goal in life, good luck on that…

November 29, 2014

To count on it doing any good for any individual worker to pressure Walmart into raising its wages and/or giving its employees more hours or putting more on full-time is pretty much resigning one’s self to extremely low expectations in life. In other words, if Walmart or Walmart-type work is your idea of a career, well good luck with that…

That is not to say that Walmart should not pay its workers more. I mean for one thing, why should the rest of us subsidize Walmart and Walmart-like companies via various forms of public assistance low-wage employees are entitled to?

But from the individual’s standpoint, better to look elsewhere — a career change, a new skill, anything.

But the fact is too that not everyone has the opportunity or ability to go elsewhere. Oh, and I might add I am sure many are quite happy to be employed there and for various reasons, including flexibility of hours, locale, and skill level. And to some extent such work is really designed or best for those who are not depending on it to support a whole family — it could be extra money.

For the shopper, it’s a matter of going there because that is where the stuff is and quite possibly at the most economical price. The shopper can’t right all wrongs or afford to try. On the other hand there may be times when one can get better value by shopping at places that might have higher quality merchandise and better before and after sale service.

Somehow I am dubious that the having the government raise the minimum wage is terribly effective. For one thing, minimum is minimum, as in not enough. And, if suddenly everyone gets more money, guess what happens? Yeah, your rent goes up along with everything else. The trick seems to be making more than the other guy (or gal) not the same. And to do that, pretty much you usually have to have something to offer, better knowledge, skill level, craft, whatever.

One area where government might be effective against outfits like Walmart or indeed Walmart itself is monopoly tactics — not so much the kind that put other retailers at a disadvantage, but the kind that treat suppliers badly. Walmart is such a monopoly in some areas of merchandising that it squeezes suppliers — and of course I suppose that does harm its retail competitors too.

Related to all of this is a suggestion I heard on a radio talk show from a caller: if the minimum wage is raised, then in turn public assistance should be lowered accordingly. I don’t know, just a thought, and probably hard to figure.

Bottom line, one has to look out for one’s self. And the best pressure on a bad employer is for folks to leave…

 

P.s.

And for all the talk of not being able to feed a family on low wages, well while it is certainly true that if wages are low enough, it might make it impossible, there is such a thing as beans and potatoes — it beats the cost of fast food and is better for you. Fixing your own food is becoming a lost skill in our society…

 


Ferguson was handled badly to say the least, but Cleveland shooting seems outrageous…

November 27, 2014

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have led such a peaceful life and that I grew up in safe neighborhoods.

My last post was about the Ferguson, Mo. incident that has resulted in so much violence and hardened positions between black and white and particularly between many in the black community against the police (I’m talking nationwide not just in Ferguson or the St. Louis area). And I guess even some non-black people are up in arms about what they see as heavy-handedness by white policeman. The Huffington Post, which has never been impartial but up until now was still worth reading to glean some meaning out of things, has dropped any sign of objectivity in the Ferguson case — siding with those who claim white policemen are out to get them.

And I am not claiming there is no problem or violation of civil rights. There is indeed a problem. I do think the police need to change their tactics and I do think more caution needs to be taken to prevent deadly mistakes. And there ought to be options other than lethal force. But also there needs to be a change in the mindset of those who seem to overlook the fact that if you engage in crime or vandalism or other types of uncivilized behavior and if you go out of your way to confront the police or refuse to comply with their orders when they are carrying out their lawful duties to protect the public, you are headed into dangerous territory.

I also think that as far as the black community is concerned, that there are those, actually the majority, who are just ordinary citizens and who do their best to get along in this world and live up to their responsibilities but who must contend with troublemakers and lawbreakers among their society and too often let them get the upper hand. They need to shun the bad actors and they need to get politically involved in their own communities. They could get elected to city councils and make sure that their police forces look more like themselves. And in the worst-case scenarios where there seems to be no hope, the best option might be to move elsewhere where things are more peaceful — if that is at all an option.

But the latest incident (and there seem to be so many) is where a 12-year old boy in Cleveland, Oh. was shot to death by a policeman. The boy was black and the policeman, a rookie, was white. The boy had reportedly been waving a handgun around scaring people. The gun turned out to be what stories report as a bb-gun. There’s video showing what happened (I have not yet viewed it). From what I have read, the officer acted awful quickly. And it seems surly some other means of making contact with the kid and apprehending him could have been taken. Reportedly the police cruiser (two cops in it) simply rolled up and within two seconds the boy was shot — reportedly after not responding to previous orders to drop the gun.

From what I have taken in so far of the Cleveland incident, it seems outrageous. There just had to be some other option for the cops who were in relative safety in the patrol car (I of course don’t know or can’t see all that happened and exactly how it took place, video notwithstanding or even with video that never shows all).

Yes, there is no doubt something has to be done. And talk and platitudes won’t get it. And I think blacks have every right to be angry. The question is, who all should they be angry at. But whatever, action needs to be taken. Peaceful action. Political action. But action and now.

Meanwhile, I am thankful that I live where peace reigns.

Well actually there is violence all around in society and the world, but I am just referring in general to my own life.

May all have a good Thanksgiving.


A young but fairly large man stole cigars from a store and pushed the puny clerk out of the way, and then he walked down the middle of the street, and then he tangled with a cop, and then he was shot dead, and then others decided to riot and loot stores, and then when they didn’t get their way with the grand jury, they rioted and looted some more; one wonders if there is much of a connection between the death of a young man and rioters and looters…

November 24, 2014

It was all very predictable. The reaction to a local grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo. not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black youth, who as it turns out was reportedly unarmed, is that some have taken to rioting and looting and setting police cars on fire. The violence I have read so far is not limited to Ferguson.

From comments on the web and radio you can tell this is a racially charged incident that puts the spotlight on the racial divide between black and white or black and, well non-black.

But one wonders if some or even most of those who riot and loot care not for justice as much as lashing out to be lashing out, and stealing to be stealing, and whether they have any real sense of responsibility in their lives.

Certainly many black people may simply be frustrated with what they see as racism among white cops and the continued preponderance of poverty in their culture.

I began this post before the grand jury announcement and had written we all seemed to be forced to be on pins and needles because if the decision was not what the mob demanded they would go wild (not my exact words, well actually I did not post that — my real job  demanded attention before I could finish it). It was not until perhaps about an hour (not sure) after the decision was announced I had time to check the news. But the reports are of violence (exactly how much and how widespread I am not sure as I write this — but it sounded bad).

—————–

ADD 1: As of 11:18 Central Time, I have heard reports of looting, the setting of fires, and heavy gunfire in Ferguson, plus violence in the St. Louis area. There are reports of I-44 being shut down and flights diverted away from an area airport. One area radio commentator said the violence is not about the dead young man anymore but is more simply widespread lawlessness.

—————————-

I don’t think I’ve commented on this case previously. I have been reluctant to because for one thing the details seemed fuzzy but at the same time it seems that the poor dead youth was playing the part of bad actor and there have been reports that he attacked the officer and/or resisted arrest in some manner.

Video evidence shows that the deceased had just got done with a strong-arm robbery of a store, although it is unclear whether that had anything to do with his run-in with the officer. It seems that he and another youth or youths were walking in the middle of the street and were told not to and the hassle was all about that — although the officer may or may not have seen that the now dead youngster matched the description of a robbery suspect.

It may well be that whatever the case the officer should have taken some other action short of lethal force, but things happen so fast and decisions have to be made.

How are we going to convince people to be our policemen (and women) if we tie their hands behind their back and take their authority and protection away from them? I sure would not want their job.

It is also true, I think, that the profession of beat cop often attracts bullies, I mean it just seems a natural fit (although not really a good one, and excuse the contradiction in terms).

But we should not have bullies as cops and we really need to come up with alternatives to gunfire at the drop of a hat.

In this case I think I read that the officer in question was not known to be the bully type.

But this trial by mob is not the way to go.

P.s.

In Ferguson and elsewhere, as I understand it, police forces have a hard time recruiting blacks. Also, up until now, as I understand it, the black population in Ferguson has not taken part in local politics for the most part. Apparently they should.

 


Citizenship by just showing up is not right, but maybe it should be easier to obtain for workers…

November 23, 2014

Does anyone know what our immigration policy is? I tried to look it up on the internet and on more than one site it said it is “complex”.

And why do so many have to go through a long and arduous process and prove they know more about our country than many native-born and others just show up and demand citizenship?

And you know those low-paying jobs that so many illegal aliens do could be performed by our own citizens, but if they were those citizens might demand better working conditions and higher pay.

But why do those who work and pay taxes have to subsidize American citizens who are not working, while illegal aliens fill the void?

And why do we chase down people who come here to work, albeit illegally, but seldom go after the employers who draw them in?

And let’s be honest, illegal aliens do not just take low-paying, low-level jobs. The have moved into the trades. In some cases the trade work has been dumbed down to make it possible to hire unskilled workers, and in some cases we all suffer for that.

It’s hard to feel bad towards those who come here to make a living for themselves and their families. I think there ought to be a way for them to get citizenship more easily by immigrating under a legal process.

But let’s stop using the euphemism of “immigrants” when we are talking about people here illegally. Immigrant puts in mind someone legally becoming a resident of the country.

What to do with the millions of illegals already here… the only thing I can think of is not much of anything until or less something comes up to bring them before the law, and then sort it out case by case.

But meanwhile we need a policy that is fair and practical and not so complex that few understand it.

I don’t think immigration policy by presidential decree is a good idea. On the other hand, the congress has thus far failed to act.

P.s.

I have not been able to decipher yet exactly what President Obama’s latest executive order on immigration does, but I understand it is a piecemeal approach and does not by any means address all issues concerning illegals or others involved. As an example, it gives children of illegals more time to stave off deportation but does not help their parents. And basically some illegals are helped and others not. The president has called upon congress to pass a comprehensive plan.

Also, there is the issue of legal highly-skilled foreign workers. That would have to be the subject of another post. But the question is: why are we so short of highly-skilled people?

 


Cosby is being hurt by his silence (but maybe he has nothing to say)

November 20, 2014

Normally I wouldn’t comment on such tawdry stuff, but this Bill Cosby scandal is hard to ignore. On the one had it might be like people asking any man, any innocent man: “so when are you going to stop beating your wife?” In Cosby’s case, it’s more like: when are you going to stop raping women?

First of all, the only people who likely know whether allegations of sexual attacks leveled against Cosby are true are Cosby himself and the alleged victims.

But they seem to be coming out of the woodwork, alleged rape victims, that is.

Rich individuals and corporations often settle lawsuits that may have no merit but may cause much financial drain and bad publicity with financial arrangements to those who file them. Sometimes or all of the time lawyers get the bulk of the money — much more than the alleged injured party.

And let’s be realistic right here: whatever the truth in the ongoing Cosby scandal is, it is not going to come from his lawyers. The lawyers are not being paid to tell the truth, just to protect the client. If they do speak the truth, that is just incidental.

In Cosby’s case, it seems that paying off one of his accusers (and her lawyers) is actually working against him. He has denied any wrongdoing, but only through his lawyers, as I understand. In an interview on NPR when confronted with the allegations, Cosby chose complete silence.

Now for the average Joe, silence might be right. I mean asking a guy when is he going to stop beating his wife, as the old line goes, with no proof or even reason to expect it ever happened is unfair. I mean how do you answer such a question? Even addressing it makes you seem defensive/guilty. But Cosby is not your average Joe. He is a highly successful and rich entertainer. And he has made a living out of being Mr. Clean and out of encouraging young black men to go the straight and narrow and not walk around with their pants dragging the ground (and of course this is now the custom of many non blacks).

Part of the current flap flared up when a YouTube video of a young black comedian dissing Cosby, flat-out calling him a “rapist”, went viral on the net.

No doubt with his squeaky-clean image and his constant scolding of young black men, Cosby has become the subject of much schadenfreude.

I don’t know what to think. I’m not a big Cosby fan, but I did enjoy his TV programs and when I was a teenager I enjoyed his comedy records, especially the one where he said his parents couldn’t afford a baby sitter so they put him in a crib in the middle of the room and told him to stay there and that thousands of snakes were crawling around in the room. But poor little Cosby had a problem. “Snakes I have to go to the bathroom; don’t you bite me. Well okay, maybe a snaky lick.” (Despite the quote marks maybe not exactly the wording of the joke, but something like that.)

If that were his only problem now. He was in the process of making a big splash comeback on the entertainment scene in his old age. Now several projects have been cancelled either by him or by producers/sponsors or all concerned.

Cosby is either getting a deserved payback or is subject to a terrible injustice. But his silence is not much of a defense.

 


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