"I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk." - Moss, The IT Crowd

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thought for the Day

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see—
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thought for the Day

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

- Wallace Stevens, "Anecdote of the Jar"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Update on PFC Manning's pre-trial confinement

I was very happy just now to read the most recent blog update from the attorney representing Pfc. Bradley Manning. It was published yesterday, and confirms that Manning is now being held under normal, humane conditions of detention. Seeing our government respond to public pressure to act ethically and humanely by finally doing the right thing is deeply gratifying. It makes me a little more hopeful for my country's future.

More of this, please. We still have an entire extra-judicial prison at Guantanamo that has to be shut down. Fair and humane treatment of those prisoners, with meaningful access to a legal system that is not a kangaroo court, doesn't cease to be a moral imperative just because they are not U.S. citizens.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Really, America?

A headline from MSNBC yesterday: "Bin Laden's death rekindles 'enhanced' interrogation debate."

Really, America? Is this who we are as a nation? Do we respond to the death of the guy who was, apparently, the primary architect of the 9/11 plot, by deciding this gives us free rein to go torture some more people? If this is how we behave as a country, what have we become?

When you torture prisoners, you lose all moral authority to tell others not to do likewise. The recognition of that fact was the entire basis of the Third Geneva Convention. You cannot get around this basic fact of human morality by labeling your prisoners "unlawful enemy combatants" or anything else. You can call them "Satan spawn" if you like - that still does not sanctify torture, anymore than it did during the Inquisition.

For an excellent unpacking of the practical reasons why torture was unlikely to have played any role in gathering the information that led to tracking down bin Laden, please see Heather Hurlburt's article today in The New Republic. For the moral case against torture, consult Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, if you consider yourself a Christian. If you are not a Christian, consider this: if your parent, child, sibling, spouse, or other loved one was picked up near a field of battle (for example, because they happened to live there or be traveling through at the time of conflict) or even on it, how would you feel if your loved one was tortured because someone suspected that they *might* have information which would give a small advantage to one side's army? Even in the unlikely event that they happened to possess such information, would you feel any less furious, destroyed, and heartsick? Would you ever, ever under any circumstances feel that your loved one's torment had been somehow justified?

Spawning more fear, pain, and hatred in the world should not be the role to which we aspire as a nation.

Thought for the Day

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

- Stephen Crane

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thought for the Day

"Awhile the Spirit paused in ecstasy.
Yet soon she saw, as the vast spheres swept by,
Strange things within their belted orbs appear.
Like animated frenzies, dimly moved
Shadows, and skeletons, and fiendly shapes,
Thronging round human graves, and o'er the dead
Sculpturing records for each memory
In verse, such as malignant gods pronounce,
Blasting the hopes of men, when heaven and hell
Confounded burst in ruin o'er the world:
And they did build vast trophies, instruments
Of murder, human bones, barbaric gold,
Skins torn from living men, and towers of skulls
With sightless holes gazing on blinder heaven,
Mitres, and crowns, and brazen chariots stained
With blood, and scrolls of mystic wickedness,
The sanguine codes of venerable crime.
The likeness of a throned king came by.
When these had passed, bearing upon his brow
A threefold crown; his countenance was calm.
His eye severe and cold; but his right hand
Was charged with bloody coin, and he did gnaw
By fits, with secret smiles, a human heart
Concealed beneath his robe;"
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, selection from "The Daemon of the World"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thought for the Day

"There goes one who had called on gods he does not believe in. How will it be with him if they have really come?"
- Farsight the Eagle, The Last Battle