We May Be Torturers, But At Least We Admit It

Q: What is simultaneously nonexistent, no big deal, vital to national security, worth doing because the victims were evil, and all in the past anyway so who cares?

A: Why, the CIA torture report, of course!

It was released yesterday to the sound of too many Americans making excuses, from the usual bleatings of the above to simply “THE USA IS AWESOME!” (Even on MetaFilter, which is usually better than this, there’s someone yelling about the “ticking bomb scenario” which (a) has never actually happened and (b) is possibly the case where torture would be the least effective.)

The same GOP which felt the public needed to have endless investigations into Whitewater and Benghazi is outraged that anyone would waste the public’s time on whether or not a bunch of brown people were tortured. They can’t believe that anyone would think this is something worth looking into and it may put CIA assets at risk or spur violence. Unlike, say, exposing Valerie Plame, drone striking innocents, or torturing people.

Sadly, the revelations have come as no surprise to a lot of us, and shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Bush and Cheney both admitted to it years ago. The weird thing about having this discussion now is that we already had it before. The exact same one. In fact, if you count Abu Ghraib (in which the right wing gladly served up Lynndie England — a woman — as certified Angus scapegoat, having her represent the “bad apples” that we now know were actually approved policy) we’ve had this exact same discussion at least three times. Why even talk about the fact that the CIA hasn’t had its hands clean for decades when we’re (some of us, at least) ready to feign shock and outrage by literally the exact same story three times?

“Feign shock and outrage”, who am I kidding? The American public not only knew the CIA was torturing people, they were all for it! They’d pay PPV prices to watch. Whatever the excuse of the moment pretended to be, the reality was, the majority of Americans wanted that torture to be happening and wanted it to be as awful as possible, because the majority of Americans are hateful ghouls with the empathy levels of five-year-olds. And honestly, the ones who relish the news simply because of their bloodlust are still above those who are all for it because at least this means it’s not them being frozen to death or “rectally infused”.

One of these water-carriers is a guy you might remember from a Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony, Barack Obama. His outrage at the findings (once they were revealed against his administration’s wishes) was so weak that cricket pee rejoiced in finally getting out of last place.

Responding to the report, Barack Obama said the US owed a “profound debt” to the CIA but accepted that some of its techniques were “contrary to our values”.

“These harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests. Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again.”

You’d think a lame-duck, nothing-to-lose president would have more to say than that, but this is Obama we’re talking about, who every morning wakes up and thinks that today will be the day when the GOP finally loves him. Besides, he and Holder already agreed in 2008 not to prosecute anyone except for a Lynndie England here and there. Between not prosecuting torture by the CIA or the near-destruction of the world economy by US banks, one might wonder what exactly we have a Justice Department for.

So there you go. We found out that yes, the CIA tortured people, and it was even more brutal than anyone imagined, especially considering that many of the victims shouldn’t have been in our gulag to begin with. However, one of our major parties doesn’t care, the majority of the population is proud of this, the highest official in the opposing party can’t be roused to any meaningful action, and, best of all, the gulag is still open with no plans to change that in the future.

It’s been a banner year for the land of the free and the home of the brave, the greatest nation on Earth. I can’t wait to see what fresh horrors 2015 has in store.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , ,

Let’s Look at the Record: Soul of the Machine

Yes, this is a Windham Hill sampler.

Windham Hill, for those not familiar, is (was?) a record label that, in the 80s and 90s, released a lot of what was called “New Age” music. Although named because it was beloved by those who also go for crystals and other such nonsense, it also became a catch-all for electronic music that wasn’t dance- or pop-oriented.

My at-the-time pal Rob introduced me to this CD, I believe, and also Between Two Worlds by Patrick O’Hearn. Having enjoyed music by Wendy Carlos and Kraftwerk, I took to this stuff eagerly. (Between Two Worlds was one of the first 10 CDs I ever bought. I had made a list, you see, and it was on it because I imagined the digital music would sound digitally great.) At the time, 1987, New Age stuff was huge and even a smallish record store would have a pretty big section.
Along with these, my trips to the New Age section also got me tapes (I didn’t have a CD player yet, so these were bought on tape) including Metropolitan Suite by Synergy, Curse of the Pheromones by Startled Insects, and a bunch of Jean-Michel Jarre. At the time I was at college in Lafayette, and undergoing an explosion in my musical exposure, and the “New Age” kick was just a part of it. Despite the Aquarian vibrations produced by these CDs they never awakened the Goddess within me.

In the mid-90s, I was in Illinois, working for a publishing company. One of my tasks was called “castoff”, a process of going through a raw manuscript and counting words and elements to determine how long the published work would be. It was a tedious job, and music with lyrics interfered with it, so my New Age CDs (most had made the transition) were brought in to help out. They were augmented with the new and improved catchall term, “Ambient” CDs, especially the Artificial Intelligence compilations.

Speaking of compilations, it’s worth pointing out that although I really like Soul of the Machine and listened to it a lot, I can’t tell you the name of any of the artists on it, and I never sought out any of their solo works. While I liked all of the tunes on it, nothing struck me as a thread I wanted to pursue.

To this day these albums are my go-to when I want some music but need to concentrate, so lyrics are out of the question.

You can listen to Soul of the Machine here.

Posted in Music | Tagged

Twin Peaks

Last night we finished up the TV run of Twin Peaks. It was a lot of fun, even as it lost its way. The sprawling cast meant that even if I was currently stuck in one of the particularly terrible sub-plots, it wouldn’t be too long before we were somewhere else.

Once again I’m struck by how long American TV seasons are. Season two seemed to last forever, and not just because it had that James Hurley or Andrew Packard stuff in it. Season one is only eight episodes and zooms on by. How many stories can stay fresh and interesting for twenty-two hours?

I included a photo of Dale and Audrey because they’re far and away the best characters. Oh, there are other good ones, but those two are the champs. When Audrey first appears she seems like a reckless, dreamy femme fatale, but she unexpectedly swerves into being one of the most clear-headed, practical people around. Cooper gets sort of an opposite treatment, starting out as seeming like a crazy man trying to unravel an even crazier mystery, but whose boundless enthusiasm and unorthodox methods get him by. As the mystery winds down, so does Cooper, and it’s the biggest disappointment. Towards the end of season two, when both are shoved into heatless romances with bland nobodies, one feels the most painful longing for what could have been.

I actually don’t know what could have been, to be honest. There’s only so long the Laura Palmer mystery could be strung along, and it’s unlikely the effect could be repeated with a different mystery. Certainly the Windom Earle stuff isn’t half as interesting. Maybe the solution would have been two short seasons, ending with the revelation of the killer? I guess that for all the innovations the show brought to TV drama, the idea of a finite series wasn’t one of them, and probably should have been.

Naturally, Netflix doesn’t have the movie on Watch Instantly, so we’ll see that whenever it arrives.

I’m really glad to have finally visited Twin Peaks, even all the way through the end. It was a grand time.

Posted in TV | Tagged

I Had That! #42: Godzilla, King of the Monsters

I didn’t really start reading comics until my teens. Unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t grow up with Superman or Spider-Man comics. I had very few comics as a kid, mostly due to lack of interest. The Time Saver on the corner where I bought candy and
stuff had a spinner rack, and I sometimes looked it over, but for the most part I was unmoved. Even the Star Wars comic lost my interest once it went beyond the movie, which is very odd. I don’t know why comics didn’t grab me.

One notable exception was Marvel’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Basing a comic around a giant radioactive lizard who regularly destroys real estate and doesn’t talk is an odd choice, to say the least. Placing it in their usual universe is somehow even odder.

As I’ve said before, I fancied myself a bit of a Godzilla fan, even though I didn’t have the patience to really sit through the movies when giant monsters weren’t on-screen. I guess the comics were a chance to get my giant monster fix without having to deal too much with non-monsters.

Since this was before the direct market, the only way to get these was to bike up to Time Saver and hope I hadn’t missed anything. That wasn’t always the case, and there were definitely holes in my collection. Still, the ones I had I read over and over, and I believe I still have some of those ragged issues stored away.

For me, the decision to set the book in the Marvel Universe proper was a detriment. Having SHIELD go after the beast with their absurd technology was fine, but when actual superheroes walked in, I lost interest. Towards the end of the run, as sales waned (and Godzilla neared New York) Marvel brought in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and that didn’t seem to bring in superhero fans and it seriously turned me off. But since the arc of the book has Big G traveling across America from west to east, the bulk of it is superhero-free. And there are some surprisingly touching and human stories among the monster rampage, such as the story that takes place in Nevada. But there are also some just plain fun slugfests with a giant Bigfoot, Red Ronin the robot, and Devil Dinosaur. The three-part story where Godzilla fights giant alien monsters on the Moon was one of my favorites.

I eventually completed the run as an adult, but I haven’t revisited it recently. As much as I loved this, I never picked up the later Dark Horse Godzilla comics, nor did I pick up Marvel’s Shogun Warriors book.

When did I get it? Marvel’s run lasted from 1977-1979 and I bought them fairly regularly until the end.

Do I still have it? Yep, plus the black-and-white omnibus Marvel released, though I would rather read them in color of course.

Posted in Comics | Tagged ,

This Sort-Of Delicious Week

Delicious still isn’t working right, but here are the links I’ve saved there since it broke.

When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia
It’s always nice to know what our best friends in the region are up to.

This is your brain on money: Why America’s rich think differently than the rest of us – Salon.com
No duh, but still interesting, especially how we enable it.

IT HAPPENED TO ME: I’ve Been Forced Out Of My Home And Am Living In Constant Fear Because Of Relentless Death Threats From Gamergate – xoJane
Developer Brianna Wu vs. the idiots of GamerGate

3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland’s depiction of Islamabad – The Week
But we NEED the brown people to be superstitious filthy savages for the magic to work!

Real Human Beings: Shadow of Mordor, Watch Dogs and the New NPC :: Games :: Features :: Paste
Here’s the kind of videogame writing we could use more of.

Computer generated running
A video of #GamerGate

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Supreme Court (HBO) – YouTube
I oppose any idea that could somehow result in Antonin Scalia being a sympathetic character.

The Top 10 Reasons to Ban Me from Bay Area Science Festival | Skepchick
“I don’t know anything about this, but I’m against whichever one is the chick.”

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion
No, all opinions are NOT equal.

TED talks are lying to you – Salon.com
Americans love a good Capitalist fairy tale.

Rock On! How to Throw a Punk Rock-Inspired Party | Martha Stewart
Nothing says “punk rock” like Martha Stewart.

The ethics of firms paying to be honored for ethics – LA Times
Buy your way to respectability!

The Internet Arcade puts 900 classic games right in your web browser | The Verge
They have Bosconian! Blast! Off! Aloit! Aloit!

Should the Duggar Girls #FuckFirst? by Dan Savage – Seattle Features – The Stranger, Seattle’s Only Newspaper
Of course they should. Everyone should.

The Bouletcorp » It’s a kind of Magic
I seriously don’t understand the appeal of the Harry Potter world. I don’t know why anyone would want to live in it.

Brittany Maynard Didn’t Commit Suicide (What We Can Learn From 9-11’s “Falling Man”)
I’m tired of folks calling people cowards because they don’t want to die plugged into a machine and sitting in their own shit.

Ask Chris #219: If You Haven’t Read ‘Jack Staff’, Do it Now
Chris Sims talks about one of my all-time favorite comics.

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare | Rolling Stone
The people who destroyed the economy will never be brought to justice, just slapped with cost-of-doing-business fines. And that’s under Obama.

Girardi’s Frozen Yogurt – YouTube
I’ve posted this before but it deserves a repeat.

Comedy doesn’t belong to the a**holes anymore
Yeah, I’m done with “comedy” whose only schtick is “look how offensive I am! I’m trangressing social mores!”

The Truth About Anonymous’s Activism | The Nation
Wait, a group that came out of 4chan isn’t on the up and up?

Barbie Girl Scout, Cartoon Network App, Mini Mall Lead This Year’s List Of Worst Toys — Consumerist
Hooray for buying crap!

Shakesville: Wil Wheaton Gets It Wrong on Harassment & Anonymity in Gaming
I don’t care anything about Wil Wheaton, but the author opened my eyes on the value of anonymous accounts.

State lotteries and truth in advertising
State lotteries are a “game” where everyone loses, including people who don’t participate.

Twin Peaks parody by Saturday Night Live (1990) – Vidéo Dailymotion
I wasn’t watching TP at the time but I was watching SNL and couldn’t believe how much of this spoof I remembered. Takes you back to a time when Mike Myers was funny, Victoria Jackson was sexy, and Phil Hartman was alive.

Pamie » Barbie Fucks It Up Again
Barbie is not clear on what a computer engineer does.

Wall Street is Taking Over America’s Pension Plans – The Intercept
It’s not right to say no one learned anything from the financial crisis. Banks learned they can do whatever the hell they want.

Alien | Typeset In The Future
Some amazing details from the movie Alien.

Wonolo, Temp Worker App, Shows Scary Future of Sharing Economy | New Republic
Behold the future of employment.

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Fall Finale Secrets Revealed: Head Honcho On The Big Shocker And What’s Next
(Spoilers) Welp, this explains why Sleepy Hollow has gone off the rails and why you shouldn’t expect it to get any better.

The 2014 Good Gift Games – The Morning News
Matthew Baldwin’s seasonal suggestion of boardgames worth considering as gifts.

Posted in Delicious

My Proposal for a Post-Racial America

Recent events have aggravated the constant open would of race in America. They haven’t ripped off the bandages or the scab because neither has ever been really applied. There is a deep racial divide in this country, and its effects reach through every area of society.

In the wake of the Mike Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, we are not only hearing from a black America that is crying against injustices imposed upon it, but also a white America that feels it is not being treated fairly. In an effort to begin a healing process, I’ve come up with a plan that I think addresses the major concerns being expressed.

I’m proposing a trade. From now on, only white people would be allowed to use the n-word. In addition, November would be declared “White History Month”. And one cable channel will be set aside for a White Entertainment Television network. I think these are reasonable provisions.

In return, 98.8% of all Fortune 500 CEOs will now be black, as will 99% of the Senate and 91% of the House of Representatives.

I think this is an equitable trade, as it gives white people what they seem to want most — access to a certain word and specialized history months and television channels — and black people what they want — economic and political power. I’ve actually tilted it a little in favor of whites, since they currently just want equal access to the n-word but I’m proposing they can have it completely. I hope black folks are okay with that.

I’m forwarding this proposal to President Obama, who incidentally will be the first of 43 black presidents we’ll have until we let a white guy again have a turn.

Posted in Politics | Tagged ,

Watch a Man Be Killed, Then Watch a Child Be Killed

Watch these videos. Make yourself sit through the end. Don’t skip through them or turn away. Watch every second.

My lily white safe ass has nothing to add here, but I couldn’t say nothing.

Posted in Argh! | Tagged ,

NoVVember 2014: The Pit Viper

As has been sadly customary, this year I figured I was going to skip NoVVember (the annual Lego monthly “event” in which people build spaceships based on the “Vic Viper” from the videogame Gradius, which I’ve been doing since 2008) since I didn’t have any good ideas. I had thought about an all-black VV, concentrating on texture, but I couldn’t get any traction on that. Coming back from Florida I wanted to try an Art Deco VV but it was already November 29 and I knew I’d need more time for that than I had. Suddenly I had a flash of inspiration and started work on this year’s model.

Behold: the Pit Viper. As in pit bull, not pit…er…viper. Same idea of a mostly black ship, though with some white accents in a familiar shape. The fuselage is somewhat barrel shaped, the white bits form a familiar stripe, the wings are akin to flippy ears, and the tail…is like a tail.

I’m not sure how effective this space fighter is, given its namesake. I’m sure it’s very brave, but in battle one doesn’t usually approach the enemy and demand butt scratches. Also it’s sometimes too cold for it to bother leaving the hanger.

This was a quick build, probably two hours from beginning to end. Getting the head just right was tough, and I went through about three different body iterations. There’s nothing particularly clever in the technique here, and no interesting part usage, just straight-up basic Legoing, which is fine.

You can go here for the entire gallery.

Here’s the Pit Viper next to its inspiration, who is trying to take a nap.

Previous Vic Vipers: 2013 2012 2011A 2011B 2010 2009 2008

Posted in Lego | Tagged , ,