Monday, June 15, 2009

Waterboarding is against UNITED STATES LAW

I can't believe the utter crap reasoning I've been seeing in DEFENSE of TORTURE. "We need to do it "-- all competent evidence to the contrary that it actually helps and to the affirmative that it actually hurts -- "because the attack on the US on 9-11 was an atrocity."

That is the very essence of a false argument, linking two things that have no relationship to one-another, other than indulging our sense of anger and helplessness respecting the attack on 9-11. And I speak as someone who breathed in the debris from the WTC as it rained down on my home...and personally know people who died, including the 20 firefighters from my neighborhood.

YES, the terrorists are utter savages and barbarians, and we should fight them FIERCELY in the field. NO MERCY.

But once they are in our custody and control...once they are CAPTIVE PRISONERS..., they are no longer a threat. They are helpless. They are human beings AT OUR MERCY.

The only conceivable threat that a captive prisoner presents to us is in the hypothetical situation, the "ticking time bomb scenario," which makes for a good episode of "24," but is so remote in actuality that in no way should the exception decimate the rule. Moreover, it's just a BAD IDEA to base major national security policy decisions on fictional television shows, as opposed to on our law, our foundational constitutional principles and on the settled professional insights of expert interrogators in the field.

Professional interrogators in the FBI and CIA -- folks like Matt Alexander, leader of the interrogation team that located Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaida in Iraq and murderer of tens of thousands, by using relationship-building methods and non-coercive techniques -- have stated repeatedly that even in the "ticking time bomb scenario," torture is the LEAST efficacious method for extracting the information needed to save lives. Befriending the subject, winning them over, using deception...these are all methods that have consistently proven MORE EFFECTIVE than torture in gaining useful and reliable intelligence.

Speaking of intelligence, it is far better to employ our brains, smarts and the accumulated know-how of professional experts to gain crucial information than it is to allow our EMOTIONS and desire for revenge to govern our responses in these situations.

What the defenders of torture stand for is akin to saving the village in Vietnam by incinerating it. We would "save" our country by voluntarily incinerating our Constitution, intentionally violating U.S. LAW, and decimating our country by destroying everything it stands for, everything that makes us great, everything that makes us a LAW-ABIDING DEMOCRACY.

Resorting to torture is the pussy's way out. It is a reaction rooted in fear and lack of faith in the greatest system of justice and democracy on this earth. We allow the terrorists to scare us into destroying ourselves. The decimation of the US becomes an inside job. Such a reaction could not be more anti-democratic, more barbaric, more ANTI-AMERICAN.

For shame!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No, Rabbi Pomerantz. You are wrong.

In a column published today on, Rabbi Dr. Morton H. Pomerantz employs stunningly tortured logic to hold President Obama responsibile for Wednesday's terrorist shooting by white supremacist James W. von Brunn, at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

As a Reform Jew and a Zionist, I find Rabbi Pomerantz's remarks utterly mortifying. I cannot believe this guy is a chaplin for the State of New York. He says:

Just last week, Obama told his worldwide audience more than 100 million people that the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust was the equivalent of Israel's actions in dealing with the Palestinians.

Although the rabbi speaks here as if he is quoting Obama directly, that is not what the President said. Rather, the President simply iterated two truths that are not in conflict -- that the Holocaust was an atrocity against humanity and that Israel has a part to play in improving the plight of the Palestinians within and adjacent to its borders.

President Obama called on the Palestinians to abandon violence...and for the Israelis to abandon the continued expansion of the settlements on the West Bank. He held BOTH sides accountable for the part they MUST play in making a lasting peace in the region in the future. He did NOT state that the plight of the Palestinians was *equivalent* to that of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. To put such words into President Obama's mouth stops just short of libel.

What I will say as a New Yorker and a Reform Jew is this: Because of our persecution in the Holocaust, Jews here and in Israel MUST stand against persecution of people based on heritage, ethnicity or national identity, no matter how relatively mild that persecution may be. NEVER AGAIN means we MUST stand for equal rights for ALL human beings, regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, etc. To stand for Israel's security is not in conflict with these goals because security measures can and MUST be aimed against those whose behavior-- not identity -- presents a threat.

American and Israeli Jews can and must oppose the violence of Hamas while vigorously defending the rights of the Palestinian people to a country and the blessings of peace, security and prosperity. That is my position. My grandmother violated the United States Neutrality Act to ship arms to Israel during the wars in 1967 and 1973. I was raised to support Israel as a Jewish homeland, and I do fiercely stand for Israel and against antisemitism. I also stand for the equal right of the Palestinian people to their own homeland, side-by-side with Israel.

Obama did indeed condemn the violence perpetuated by Hamas. He is not letting the Palestinian people off the hook.

To state that President Obama's views "help create a danger as great as that posed by the Nazis to the Jewish people," is histrionic crazy talk, so over the top it is beyond credibility.

I see this as a common flaw among many of my fellow Jews and fellow Zionists, the false belief that to hold ourselves and our beloved Israel accountable for the part we have played in exacerbating the suffering of our Palestinian brothers and sisters is to sew the seeds of our own destruction. This is the fundamental misconception that has kept and continues to keep Palestinians and Israelis mired in perpetual conflict.

We need a paradigm shift, or we will NEVER have peace.

I am a Reform Jew. I love God. I love Israel. I love my Palestinian neighbors out here in Brooklyn, and I love my Palestinian brothers and sisters in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Rabbi Pomerantz does NOT speak for me. And I know I am not alone in feeling this way as a Jew.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheneyan Doublethink and Newspeak

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised Dick Cheney has the gall to come out and publicly defend torture of detainees by American authorities. As far back as I can remember, from McCarthy to Tricky Dick and Spiro, to Gingrich and Ken Starr, to Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove...and that drooling idiot in the corner with the lace collar and the propeller hat..., these guys on the far right have been utterly shameless. So why should I expect an dirty old dog to suddenly learn new tricks?

Cheney refers to water boarding by the sanitizing euphemism, "enhanced interrogation techniques." He does this despite the fact that current, effective statutory law, judicial rulings and international treaties unambiguously define water boarding as torture. Let's leave aside the fact that Abu Zubaydah was "interrogatorily enhanced" over 80 times in one month.

According to Cheney, however, when Cheney calls water boarding an "enhanced interrogation technique," suddenly and magically it is no longer torture, not illegal, not a horrendous way to treat a captive human being.

Cheney's coinage is a classic example of "Newspeak" a central weapon in the totalitarian propaganda arsenal, illustrated so indelibly in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. With Newspeak, something is not what it is simply because the government authorities say so. To challenge the government’s statement is to commit a treasonous act, to invites government scrutiny and police intrusion into one's life ... like having all of one's phone calls and internet transmissions tapped, without a warrant.

Oh wait. They did that.

A self-proclaimed minion of "the Dark Side," Cheney has never wavered in his staunchly optional relationship to factual accuracy and, well, reality. If he could, he would suck the entire world into the black hole that is his psyche, so we all might play a part in the dark puppet show of Cheney's most paranoid fantasies. Combine Cheney's contempt for facts with Karl Rove's head for political strategy; add in their mutual appreciation of the manipulative power of fear, and you've got one diabolical formula: Strategic Mendacity -- a pattern of making stuff up to exploit people's fears.

Here is how strategic mendacity works: Put forth false factual assertions that justify one's position and put the burden on your opposition to marshal the facts necessary to set the record straight. Blanket the world with bullshit, and leave it to your opponent to dig the fuck out. Strategic mendacity has proven exceedingly effective, particularly in the period following 9-11, when overflowing wells of fear throughout the American public primed the field for absorption of megatons of bullshit.

It's a brilliant diversionary tactic. Instead of openly debating matters of policy and law on the merits, the Rovians mine the field of public discourse with factual misrepresentations, deliberately planted to mire the opposition in the effort required to expose and debunk the lies. It's a dirty tactic that works like a progressive tax on the opposition. Valuable time and effort that could be spent on positive efforts towards change and progress get wasted instead on Republican Roto-Rooter Research duty, sifting through the sewage.

Which leads me to one of my favorite pieces of Rovian Newspeak -- We are fighting this "War on Terrorism" in order to preserve and protect our freedom. Meanwhile, the government taps Americans' phones without probable cause, turns air travel into a universal stop-and-frisk, and obliterates core constitutional principles like the presumption of innocence and freedom of assembly.

We're preserving and protecting our freedoms by setting up a second judicial system, a shadow system of justice, outside the jurisdictional reaches of the United States Constitution, unbound by the need for a speedy trial, legal representation, the right to confront one's accuser, the right to due process or any hearing at all, prior to the deprivation of a human being's liberty or property. And this is all okay.

Newspeak. Doublethink.

Strategic mendacity, like "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," drove us into an unnecessary war in which thousands of young Americans gave their lives and still more their limbs, their mental health, their ability to support their families and to simply enjoy life. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives were wiped out, blithely dismissed as “collateral damage” in the greater battle for "freedom" or to wipe out WMD...or whatever.

Let us not forget, for years the Bush-Cheney administration fought the release of the numbers on Iraqi casualties. They sought to keep from us crucial information bearing on our personal responsibility as citizens of a democratic country, waging war upon the people of a foreign land. As far as the Bush-Cheney administration was concerned, the First Amendment to the Constitution simply would be on hold for as long as Bush-Cheney could make their state of emergency endure.

It is nothing short of an outrage that the connection between Iraq, Al Qaeda and the "War on Terror" -- the entire justification for going to war -- was one Big Lie after another, backed by intentionally-stilted intelligence reports, cooked up to provide after-the-fact support for foregone conclusions dictated by Bush, Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

Saddam had weapons of mass destruction because Dick-Bush-Rummy said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and the patriotism of anyone who would question this claim is inherently suspect. Newspeak.

One particularly galling aspect of strategic mendacity is that the mainstream media, in a misguided effort to "fairly represent both sides of an issue," habitually give equal billing and air time to the psychotic claims of the Cheney-Rovites. Their arguments are deemed newsworthy not because they are factually sound but because of their entertainment value.

This was the unintended consequence of the side-by-side coverage of the May 21 speeches of Dick Cheney and President Obama. The entertainment value of the cage fight death match elevated Dick Cheney, a personage who should be shrinking into obscurity in disgrace, to the same level of public relevance as President Obama. This "even-steven" approach to coverage confers an undeserved legitimacy upon Cheney and the toxic bullshit he shamelessly disseminates to the American public.

Let us also not forget that when Joseph Wilson published credible evidence questioning the accuracy of the Dick-Bush WMD claims, the Administration – indeed Cheney – responded by deliberately blowing the cover of Valerie Plame, an active intelligence officer of the CIA! This is the same Vice President who had the gall to fault both President Obama and Nancy Pelosi on their support of the CIA. Simply mindbending, eye-crossing, head-exploding gall. Chutzpah.


An old saying among trial lawyers holds: "A jury will forgive a witness anything, except for a lie." One lie, and anything else the witness might say will be dismissed as non-credible and worthless. If a witness will lie about one thing; he will lie about anything.

With that in mind, it is dumbfounding to me that either Rove or Cheney has the nerve to show themselves in public, let alone to speak on any subject, when the American public has countless examples of reasons to never credit another single word that Cheney or Rove may utter.