Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Brazil in Paradise

Terry Gilliam: What Brazil tells us about torture today.

By Clive James
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007,
at Slate.com

Unfortunately for our hopes of innate human goodness, all the evidence suggests that the torturers were keen to get on with the job even if it was meaningless. All the evidence was still there afterward, including photographs taken at every stage of the torment. Back in the late 1950s, on the sleeve of the Beyond the Fringe record album, Jonathan Miller made a dark joke about his worst fear: being tortured for information he did not possess. The assumption behind the joke was that if he had something to reveal, the agony would stop. He was looking back to a world of polite British fiction, not to a world of brute European fact. In the Nazi and Soviet cellars and camps, people were regularly tortured for information they did not possess: i.e., they were tortured just for the hell of it. Kafka guessed it would happen, as he guessed everything that would happen. In his Strafkolonie, the tormented prisoner has to work out for himself what crime he has committed and is finally told that it is being written on his body by the instrument of torture into which he has been inescapably locked. Kafka was there first, but he wasn't alone for long, and now we must all live in a modern world where the words "No no no no no no no no" can be recorded with perfect fidelity for their sound, yet go unheeded for what they mean.

The images and themes from this movie still resonate today.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Live Earth 07/07/2007

via Think Progress:

Gore unveils Live Earth.

Al Gore announced on Thursday a series of worldwide concerts to focus on the threat of climate change, with a powerhouse lineup from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Snoop Dogg to Bon Jovi.” The 24-hour event on 7/07/07 is part of a campaign called Save Our Selves (SOS) — The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis.

Here's the link to the Live Earth website.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Getting It Right For Once

Gerry Macsai
A Straight Path Gone Wrong

Froomkin has the lesson plan:

How the press can prevent another Iraq

COMMENTARY | February 02, 2007

Journalists, and through us the public, have a grave responsibility to not be complicit in another march to war on false pretenses. So what lessons should we have learned from Iraq?

By Dan Froomkin

You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority

* Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.

* Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.

* Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion -- or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion -- may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.

* Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.

Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War

* War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better.

* Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned?

* Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”?

* Ask them: Isn’t it possible this will make things worse, rather than better?

Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy

* Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.

* Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.

Watch for Rhetorical Traps

* Keep an eye on how advocates of war frame the arguments. Don’t buy into those frames unless you think they’re fair.

* Keep a particular eye out for the no-lose construction. For example: If we can’t find evidence of WMD, that proves Saddam is hiding them.

* Watch out for false denials. In the case of Iran, when administration officials say “nobody is talking about invading Iran,” point out that the much more likely scenario is bombing Iran, and that their answer is therefore a dodge.

Don’t Just Give Voice to the Administration Officials

* Give voice to the skeptics; don’t marginalize and mock them.

* Listen to and quote the people who got it right last time: The intelligence officials, state department officials, war-college instructors and many others who predicted the problem we are now facing, but who were largely ignored.

* Offer the greatest and most guaranteed degree of confidentiality to whisteblowers offering information that contradicts the official government position. (By contrast, don’t offer any confidentiality to administration spinners.)

Look Outside Our Borders

* Pay attention to international opinion.

* Raise the question: What do people in other countries think? Why should we be so different?

* Keep an eye out for how the international press covering this story? Why should we be so different?

Understand the Enemy

* Listen to people on the other side, and report their position.

* Send more reporters into the country we are about to attack and learn about their views, their politics and their culture.

* Don’t allow the population of any country to be demonized. All humans deserve to be humanized.

* Demand to know why the administration won’t open a dialogue with the enemy. Refusing to talk to someone you are threatening to attack should be considered inherently suspect behavior.

There's more.