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The Witness Remains

Flarebombs bloom on the dark sky.

A child claps his hands and laughs.

I hear the sound of guns,

and the laughter dies.

But the witness remains.

-Thich Nhat Hanh (date not known)

In the beginning, god created…


The DRC, Sudan, and Looking Forward.

Dave Waldman writes on Obama’s reluctance to prosecute for torture:

That poses an extraordinarily broad array of difficulties, not the least of which is that it’s an open an ongoing threat to the greater Obama agenda, which is itself often invoked as a reason for not dabbling in the “distraction” of “looking backward.” But unless we can demarcate Cheneyism — the “anything goes” philosophy as explicitly illegal, unconstitutional and illegitimate, its continued existence (and threatened practice by future administrations) calls into question the value and durability of the whatever parts of the Obama agenda are ultimately implemented, on detainee policy or anything else.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations had a hearing entitled Confronting Rape and Other Forms of Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones: DRC and Sudan. The US Senate wishes to tackle rape as a weapon of war. Barbara Boxer feels we are in good position to affect the atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Meta — Engineering.

The waterboard, which inflicts no pain.

The new news is that there is a mounting body of evidence that Dick Cheney ordered waterboarding to produce the connections necessary to wage a war on Saddam Hussein. (See diaries by dday for a primer, and buhdydharma for a link to Rachel Maddow.) Our knowledge of Dick Cheney’s penchant for torture now grows and convolves with the dubious War on Iraq. While the Bush team is morally reprehensible for creating evidence to strike, it is not clear that lying to wage a war is actually illegal in the United States. We do know that torture is illegal — we signed the Geneva Convention. The Bush team must be breaking the law by ordering prisoners to the waterboard…

…except there is a contemporary controversey in the United States about whether or not waterboarding qualifies as torture…

What follows is not for polite company — it is a graphic description and analysis of waterboarding.

Heads, sticks, and prosecuting torture memo authors.

Ladies and gentleman, if I may have your ear.

The DoJ is making noises like they will not prosecute the people who wrote the memos that “rationalized” using torture. (See Edger’s diary.) This is tragic because, with the exception of the high-ranking Bush officials who conspired to make these opinions the rule of law, the memo writers are the most complicit criminals on the list. They were the sleight-of-hand smiths who made the torture program possible. There are few involved who can approach the vulgarity that these lawyers attained.

We cannot take these prosecutions off the table and self-consistently seek justice.

The Hourglass

It is appropriate that time be measured

by the stark shadow cast by a stake in summer

or by the flow of water in the river

where Heraclitus saw time’s ironies

since, seen as time and fate, they are alike;

the movement of the mindless daytime shadow

and the irrevocable running on

of river water following its flow.

Just so, but time discovered in the deserts

another substance, smooth and of some weight,

that seemed to have been specifically imagined

for measuring out the ages of the dead.

And so appears this instrument of legend

in the engravings in the dictionary,

an object graying antiquarians

will banish to a dusty underworld

of things — a single chessman, a broadsword,

now lifeless, and a clouded telescope,

sandalwood word away by opium,

a world of dust, of chance, of nothingness.

Why 137?

I’ve decided that I want to write about physics for a while…

I’ll get started by explaining my username. Well, the r and the b aren’t very exciting (they’re my initials), but the 137 represents a story about one of the fundamental constants in the universe: the Fine Structure Constant. The story, though, has to do with the way people tend to think about science.

Will return to KAOS plus redux.

The radio show went pretty well, but there wasn’t time for a lot that needed to be said. Happily, the host invited us back to talk again…

They covered the need to prosecute, no doubt. But there needs to be more motivation for the mainstream  

Heather (chacounne) doing radio show with VFP tonight at 8:00 PDT.

Tonight at 8:00 PDT, Heather (chacounne at Daily Kos) will participate with the Olympia Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 of Veterans For Peace in the radio show “On Wings of Peace”. This is a special monthy show produced by VFP in cooperation with “Free and Fair on the Air” with John Ford on KAOS. They will discuss torture.

KAOS is a community radio station affiliated with Evergreen State College.

You can find KAOS and Free and Fair on iTunes or stream directly from the radio station’s webpage through links on this page.

Please tune in!

Exposing two important myths about torture.

Torture apologists are shouting desperate arguments from the rooftops to justify their support for enhanced interrogation, and it is common to see people in liberal and progressive circles take a “no harm done” position regarding many of the techniques the US used on their political prisoners. Here, I want to discuss flaws in two common statements:  

Myth 1: It isn’t torture if the technique is psychological.

Myth 2: It isn’t torture because our techniques have no long term effects.

If we want to fight pushback — if we want to make sure that our country does not torture again — we need to understand what is wrong with these memes. In particular, we need to understand the popularized fiction that was created by the people who tortured in your name.  

Sometimes it’s straightforward.

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