What a drag it is getting old

31 12 2014

Hey kids, what kind of fun are you going to have tonight?

Yer not out partying or else you wouldn’t be reading my rambling bits—so maybe you’re like me, sacked out on your (new-to-you!) loveseat, drinking beer (and maybe later, whisky) and watching bad t.v. shows and/or movies you’ve seen before, on Netflix.

Whoo-hoo!

Well, I will celebrate—not New Year’s, just the end of the evening—with my cats later. After I shut down the computer and turn off the lights, the critters run to the bathroom for big fun: Trickster yells at me until I set the faucet dribble to just the right rate of runny-ness, and when Jasper hears me scraping out the catbox (TMI?), he jumps in the tub and bats down the foam golf ball I’ve set atop the unused soap dish, and waits.

Yes, people, it is not even 2015 and I have discovered a great cat toy in the golf section!

Big Red Box Store was out of the foam cat toys, so I wandered over to the sports section on the off chance they’d have ping pong balls. No dice (which was probably good, as the noise those things make is annoying as hell), but I espied these foam golf practice balls.

I was intrigued.

I looked at golf wiffle balls, but came back to the foamers. They were light. They had give.

They were cheaper than the foam cat balls.

Sold!

Now, if you’ve used the foam cat balls, you know they kind of go dead after awhile, and then dry out completely after a greater while. That may happen with these things—lemme see if I can find a picture. . .okay, here one is:

Only mine’s in yellow, because orange isn’t my color. (Okay, yellow isn’t either, but but that’s all they had. And besides, it makes it easier to find underneath the new-to-me loveseat.)

. . . but the denser material makes me think it may last longer.

The real bonus is that, unlike the foam cat-balls (stop thinking that, you perv), these can get wet without getting gross. Which means I can leave in the tub for Jasper to play with without worrying about fungi or general disgusting-ness.

Since I’ve put one in the tub for Jasper, he now expects me to bat one around with him for 5 or ten minutes every night before bed.

Exciting, I know. And I wonder why I don’t have boy- or girlfriend.

Anyway, happy feckin’ new year to youse, however you may celebrate it.





Happy trails to you

30 12 2014

My friend J. moved to California, which makes me sad.

But she sold me her loveseat, cheap, which makes me glad.

The cats freaked out just a tad.

And I got rid of a chair that was. . . bad.

. . . aaaaaaand that’s enough of that.

I’m actually happy for J., that she’s finally got out of the city. I’d been a shitty friend to her this past year—wasn’t really tuned in to her hints about how crappy a previous relationship had become—but I did get to spend some time with her (and her new(ish) beau) before she left.

We had such a good, if too-short time; why had I not made the time, before?

Anyway, she is off, and finally able to try to find her own life.

Not a bad way to go.





You better run

29 12 2014

I’m a little concerned about Derek’s girlfriend.

Savannah. She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s not overly impressed with him—none of which will save her.

You see, it’s the ladies who get it on Criminal Minds.

Well, yeah, you say, the show is all about murderously pervy skeevs whose victims tend toward the female of the species, so is this really such a surprise?

But I’m not referring to the victim-of-the-week, but to the women attached to the male regulars:

  • Jason Gideon’s old (girl?) friend: murdered by psychopath obsessed with Gideon
  • Aaron Hotchner’s ex-wife, Haley: murdered by psychopath obsessed with Hotchner
  • Spencer’s would-be girlfriend, Maeve (played by Parker!): murdered by psychopath obsessed with. . . something
  • David Rossi’s ex-wife: suicide, in his arms
  • Rossi’s girlfriend (and everyone’s boss, Erin Strauss): murdered by alcohol poisoning by psychopath obsessed with the BAU

The men attached to the female regulars? They get roughed up—JJ’s companion/husband gets shot, kidnapped, and almost blown up—but they get to live. Okay, yeah, and a way-back boyfriend of Emily’s is murdered by a bad priest, but nobody current (probably because she’s allowed no one current).

And should I point out here that while both JJ & Hotchner’s male children (threatened, but not harmed) get to live, she miscarries (after getting blown up) her female fetus?

Of course, working for the Behavioral Analysis Unit is generally bad for one’s health—with the exception of Gideon and Rossi, they all get what-for: Hotchner gets blown up and stabbed and has a heart attack; Spencer gets tortured, injected with dilaudid, infected with anthrax, and shot (it’s probably pushing it to point out that Spence is the most feminine of the men, but geez, he really does get it); Penelope—shot; Elle—shot; JJ—blown up, tortured; and Emily gets shot (a couple of times, I think, not life-threatening) and, of course, impaled.

Huh, I guess Alex and Derek don’t get it too bad: minor gunshot wounds, and he gets bounced around a bit, but nothing like what the others have been through. And it’s too soon to tell what the new one, whatshername, will have happen to her—she came with a pre-murdered sister—but she has a niece/daughter, so okay, there’s another attached female to worry about.

And Rossi’s newly-discovered daughter. Another one.

Oh, wait, there is one attached woman who lives: Derek’s cousin is brought back from the dead. . . after having endured a decade of abuse and torture. But she gets out! And reunited with her family!

And Hotchner’s girlfriend departs unscathed, tho’ she does apparently end up drunk and married to a scumbag POTUS.*

I suspect no conspiracy or nasty—well, nastier than what leads you to create (or me to watch) a show about murderously pervy skeevs—motives about these attached women. I doubt it’s much more complicated than the desire to hurt or demonstrate the vulnerability of the men—and for these men, women are their vulnerabilities.

Okay, so that is fucked-up.

Savannah, honey, get out now, while you can. Derek’s got a hurt coming to him, and chances are, you’re it.

~~~

I’m not sure about this, as I don’t watch Scandal—although I probably should, since it’s apparently pretty twisted.





Wait, what?

29 12 2014

Lazy, I’ve been sooo lazy. Sooper-dooper lazy.

So, um, merry happy peaceful, y’all. Yeah.

Okay, so I have all sorts of detritus sloshing around me brain pan and I just can’t be arsed to turn them into real posts so I’ma just give you those ramblin’ bits in Quick Hits and say that’s that.

And no, I won’t be turning it into some sort of end-of-year-clear-out theme because I’ve got so goddamned many themes going it’s like a goddamned park in here.

Anyway, here’s a goofy-grinned bat to set the mood:

Pavel German

Apparently an Island Tube-nosed bat, which, okay, is a pretty darned accurate description.

h/t PZ Myers, Pharyngula





All things weird and wonderful, 49

17 12 2014

End of the semester, grading—and oh yeah, that whole Torture USA! USA! USA! gig.

So, a nudibranch:

Costasiella kuroshimae, by Lynn Wu

A tiny sea slug that looks like a sheep—yes, that’s exactly what we need.

~~~

h/t Cute Overload; more info & photos here





In the red, red sea

17 12 2014

We now know what we suspected and it’s all right.

Our government tortured and a good chunk of Americans are good with that.

Long pause as I contemplate this. And another.

One more.

Okay, then.

Jamelle Bouie is right that this should surprise no one:

It’s not just that Americans want a system that metes out punishment, it’s that—despite our Eighth Amendment—we are accepting of the cruelest punishment. And while it’s not legal, it exists and it’s pervasive. In theory, our prisons are holding cells for the worst offenders and centers for rehabilitation for the others. Inmates can work, learn, and prepare themselves for a more productive life in society. In reality, they are hellscapes of rape, abuse, and violence from gangs and guards.

[. . .]

If this is how we treat domestic prisoners—who, despite their crimes, are still citizens—then it’s no shock we torture noncitizen detainees, and it’s no surprise Americans largely support the abuse.

And thus, connecting punitive lash with punitive lash:

We aren’t living in “Dick Cheney’s America” as much as Dick Cheney is just living in America and thinking like an American. Here, we already believe our criminals deserve the brutality of our prisons. From there, it’s easy to think that our detainees deserve the depravity of our dungeons. That’s where he stands, and we stand with him.

So no one will be prosecuted, at least in domestic courts, and this may, even will probably, happen again.

And a good chunk of Americans are good with that.





Defenses down

16 12 2014

From pages 51-54 (77-80, pdf) of the Torture Report, a model for “enhanced interrogation”:

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FireShot Screen Capture #009 - 'sscistudy1_pdf' - www_intelligence_senate_gov_study2014_sscistudy1Yes, the CIA created a “mind virus” to convince a Najjar that his “situation would continue to get worse” unless he “cooperated”.

(“Cooperated”: Such a sinister meaning attached to such a benign term.)

They thought through the use of torture they “had a reasonable chance at breaking” him.

Breaking: a much more appropriate term.

And which they accomplished. They broke a man. Through isolation and sleep deprivation and hooding and exposure and hanging they broke a man.

And this ” ‘became the model’ for handling other CIA detainees at DETENTION SITE COBALT.”

A model for how to break a human being.





There is no blood around, see no sign of pain

16 12 2014

If you’re going to make an argument in favor of torture—and no, I will not be making an argument in favor of torture, even hypothetically—it seems the worst one is the one most often used: the ticking time bomb scenario.

What if you knew there was a nuclear bomb about to go off in New York City: wouldn’t you torture the suspect(s) in order to prevent the conflagration?

No. No no no no no no no.

Admittedly, I would neither torture nor approve of the torture of anyone under any circumstances—it’s one of the very few issues on which I’m an absolutist—but torture would seem to be least effective under these conditions.

Consider: the bomb is about (hours, days) to go off. If you are someone who is willing to die in order to kill hundreds of thousands of people, wouldn’t you be willing to outlast hours or days of torture? Or to lie repeatedly in order to forestall any efforts at finding and defusing the bomb?

The kind of person who’s willing and able to pull off the worst kind of terrorism is likely also the kind of person who’s willing and able to withstand hours and days of torture in order to make sure that bomb goes off.

I’ve spoken of my love for the mediocre movie The Peacemaker, but (and?) one of the things that makes no sense was Dušan Gavrić’s suicide. Here’s a man who went through all kinds of trouble in order to detonate a nuke in New York, and a couple of minutes before it detonates, he shoots himself.

Why not just talk until time expires? Mission accomplished.

Okay, so that’s a movie, but it seems like the assumptions beneath the ticking-time-bomb scenario are even less realistic than Nicole Kidman as a nuclear expert: that the bad guy who knows what the good guys need in order to stop the bad guy’s plans won’t just bullshit until time expires.

Give this to the psychopathic former vice president: at least he doesn’t bother with this particular bullshit scenario to justify the breaking of human beings.





Let the rain fall on your skin

11 12 2014

The USA Patriot Act issued by the US Senate on October 26, 2001, already allowed the attorney general to “take into custody” any alien suspected of activities that endangered “the national security of the United States,” but within seven days the alien had to be either released or charged with the violation of immigration laws or some other criminal offense. What is new about President Bush’s order is that it radically erases any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnameable and unclassifiable being. Not only do the Taliban captured in Afghanistan not enjoy the status of POWs as defined by the Geneva Convention, they do not even have the status of persons charged with a crime according to American laws. Neither prisoners nor persons accused, but simply “detainees,” they are the object of pure de facto rule of a detention that is indefinite not only in the temporal sense but in its very nature as well, since it is entirely removed from the law and from judicial oversight. The only thing to which it could possibly be compared is the legal situation of the Jews in the Nazi Lager [camps], who, along with their citizenship, had lost every legal identity, but at least retained their identity as Jews.

Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception

The torture-cheerleaders are clear to state that the Bush Administration’s legal counsel cleared the techniques of torture—mainly by stating that these techs were not-torture—so it could be argued that the “detainees” were in fact covered by law, as “detainees”.

The torture regime of a decade ago was indeed a legal regime: by using the law to remove the protections of the law from those assigned “detainee” status, it covered those who would torture.

Hannah Arendt noted there is no particular dignity in the naked human being (although “naked” in this sense meant shorn of one’s membership in a state), which leaves that shorn human vulnerable to imprisonment, displacement, death.

The point, then, is the same: lacking status as a citizen, a prisoner, a person—as someone recognized by us—allows us to do anything to that non-person.

And so we did.





Just let the red rain splash you

9 12 2014

The executive summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence torture report.

16 absolutely outrageous abuses detailed in the CIA torture report, as outlined by Dylan Matthews.

I was naïve, years ago, in my outrage at the torture committed by the CIA. Yes, the US had enabled torturers (see: School of the Americas) and supported regimes which tortured (see: US domestic surveillance and foreign policy), but somehow, the notion that torture was committed by US government agents seemed over the line in a way that merely enabling and supporting had not.

I don’t know, maybe US-applied torture was over the line in a way US-enabled/supported torture was not, and busting righteously through it busted something fundamental in our foreign policy.

But given, say, the Sand Creek and Marias massacres amongst the general policy of “land clearing” and Indian removal—policies directed by US politicians and agents—wasn’t it a bit precious to decry this late unpleasantness?

Naïveté, I wrote above. No: ignorance. I’d studied (and protested) 20th-century US foreign policy and ignored its 19th century version, the one directly largely against the indigenous people whose former lands now make up the mid- and western United States.

Ta-Nehisi Coates recently wrote that paeans to nonviolence are risible in their ignorance: Taken together, property damage and looting have been the most effective tools of social progress for white people in America. Yes.

A country born in theft and violence—unexceptional in the birth of nation-states—and I somehow managed not to know what, precisely, that birth meant.

I’m rambling, avoiding saying directly what I mean to say: there will be no accountability for torture. Some argue for pardoning those involved as a way to arrive at truth, that by letting go the threat of criminal charges we (the people) can finally learn what crimes were committed, and officially, presidentially, recognize that crimes were committed.

It is doubtful we will get even that.

Still, we have the torture report, and (some) crimes documented which were only previously suspected. Good, knowledge is good.

But then what? Knowledge of torture committed is not sufficient inoculation against torture being committed.

Coming clean will not make us clean.