Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for July 24th, 2008


Posted by MEC on July 24, 2008

In 2002, the Justice Department decreed that torture is legal because they say so. They didn’t put it quite so candidly, but that’s what the memo justifying “enhanced interrogation techniques” comes down to.

What the memo says is if a CIA interrogator said that he believed that whatever he did to a victim of interrogation wouldn’t do any lasting harm, then it wasn’t torture and therefore it was legal.

By that reasoning, theft is legal if the thief believes the victim won’t be harmed by being deprived of property or money. Rape is legal if the rapist believes the victim enjoys it. Arson is legal if the property is abandoned and therefore nobody has really lost anything. Aggravated assault is legal if the assailant believes that the victim would eventually make a full recovery from injuries inflicted. Shaking a baby until he suffers permanent brain damage or dies isn’t a crime if the adult didn’t think it would cause injury. Heck, let’s just take all crimes off the books, because all the accused criminal has to do is say, “I didn’t think anybody would be hurt.”

One of the things that makes this memo completely bogus is that it provides an alibi no matter what the interrogator’s real beliefs. If someone says, “This is what I believe” and sticks to his story and avoids saying anything to anybody that may contradict this assertion, there is no way to prove he doesn’t believe it at all. So what this Justice Department memo really told the interrogators isn’t that they have to believe they weren’t doing permanent harm, they just have to say they believe it and they can use as much violence as they want as long as they don’t leave permanent signs of it.

One of the things that makes this memo so horrific is that it denies the detainees are rational beings. The memo declares that the nature of the interrogation is defined entirely by the interrogator; the detainees’ thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with it. Any evidence a detainee can present that he suffered permanent damage is trumped by the interrogator’s insistence that he “didn’t mean to”.

I have a news flash for the Busheviks at the Justice Department and in every other part of the Executive Branch: you do not control reality. No matter how much you say you do, no matter how fervently you believe you do, when it comes down to it, reality always wins. And the reality is that torture is illegal because of what it does to the victims, not because of what the torturer may be thinking when he inflicts suffering.

Call it “enhanced interrogation” as much as you want; it’s still torture. Say that it’s legal by any tortuous justification you can come up with, it’s still a crime. It’s a crime against the laws of this country, it’s a crime against morality, it’s a crime against humanity.

This memo doesn’t protect you. It condemns you.


Posted in BushCo malfeasance, Department of Injustice, torture | 2 Comments »

Murder by Taser

Posted by Charles II on July 24, 2008

It’s as if the Milgram experiment escaped from the university and infected the entire nation.


Police in the city of Winnfield are being accused of covering up the death of an African American man named Baron Pikes. Pikes was twenty-one-year-old. He was Bell’s first cousin. Baron Pikes died in police custody on January 21st after being shot nine times with a taser gun while in handcuffs.

The city police chief initially claimed Pikes was high on crack cocaine and PCP at the time of his death. But the coroner has just ruled Pikes’ death a homicide, after an autopsy determined there were no drugs in his system. His death certificate states he died after being “electro shocked nine times while in police custody and restraint.” The coroner also determined the police shot Pikes twice after he lost consciousness—tased him twice….

HOWARD WITT: Yes. This incident happened last January…They chased [Pikes] down near a shopping center, near a grocery store in a little shopping center. Nugent subdued him, handcuffed him.

And then, after Pikes was on the ground and handcuffed, Nugent began ordering him to get up and walk to the police car. Pikes either wouldn’t or couldn’t, and so Nugent then began a series of taser shocks to [Pikes], which continued for a period of about fourteen minutes. And over the course of this fourteen minutes, both on the ground and later in the police car and at the police station, they delivered nine of these electroshocks to Pikes, as witnesses said he was pleading for them to stop tasering him. And by the way, everything I’ve just told you comes directly from the police report that Scott Nugent, the officer himself, wrote about the case.

… there were three officers present. Nugent was the one actually delivering the taser shocks, and there were two other officers there at various times during this incident. One of them was a supervisor of Nugent and the guy who had actually taught him how to use the taser…. Dr. Baden, who I talked to, said that in his estimation, what was done to Pikes was tantamount to torture.

(emphasis added)

Is it murder if you tell the police officer that Tasers are perfectly safe?

Is it murder if you tell the interrogators at Bagram and the other black sites that the guys in their custody are Al Qaida?

Bonus history fact: The town of Winnfield voted not to secede from the Union during the Civil War. It is also the birthplace of Huey Long.

Posted in torture | 11 Comments »

You have to outlive the b——ds to get your just due

Posted by Charles II on July 24, 2008

A work by Frank Calloway

A work by Frank Calloway

David Usborne, London Independent:

It has taken a while, but the art world in the United States is starting to notice Frank Calloway. A muralist who toils daily with felt pens and crayons over scrolls of butcher’s paper, he has a perspective that by any standard is unique. His work, in fact, is a kind of archaeology, an exploration of an America long vanished.

Any investigation of the life of Calloway himself also adds intrigue to appreciation of his works. He has lived since 1952 in a variety of state mental hospitals in his native Alabama. That’s half of his lifetime. And therein is the other astonishing detail. Yes, you have done the sums right – Calloway is 112 years old…

They offer a glimpse back to the agrarian Deep South that Calloway remembers from the days of his youth in the early 20th century. He conjures wheezing steam tractors, old-fashioned cranes and farm animals being loaded into wagons. For years,

Posted in Good Things | 1 Comment »

The Battle Is Joined

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 24, 2008

There is a well-publicized, well-funded war by anti-science types, led by a few mendacious jerks like Andrew Wakefield, that’s led to the breakdown of measles herd immunity in the UK and the weakening thereof in the US. The reason? The totally unfounded and utterly debunked claim that a) there is a “worldwide autism epidemic” and b) vaccines are the alleged culprits.

Until recently, the pro-science and pro-child voices have been drowned out by the celebrity power of the likes of Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy. But more and more actual experts like Steve Novella are taking up the pro-science cause — and that’s scaring the antivax crowd enough to send out Dr. John Poling and David Kirby to attack him:

Dr. Poling’s letter looks like part of a coordinated attack by the mercury militia. David Kirby has joined in.

I think I know what’s going on here. Antivaccinationists can dismiss me when I post about mitochondrial disorders because I’m a cancer surgeon and researcher, and autism and vaccines are not my primary area of expertise. They can also point to my use of a pseudonym to try to tear down my credibility. At the same time, they can proudly point to Dr. Poling, who is a neurologist, as an actual authority giving credence to their beliefs.

Then along comes Steve Novella. Not only is he a neurologist, too, just like Dr. Poling, but he’s also an academic neurologist–just like Dr. Poling. Not only that, but he’s an academic neurologist at Yale, which is on par with Johns Hopkins, which, if I remember correctly, is where Dr. Poling is on faculty. Not only that, Dr. Novella doesn’t buy the whole vaccines-cause-autism myth, and he knows how to argue against it. He even understands quite a bit about mitochondrial disorders and can say why antivaccinationists are misusing the science there and how Dr. Poling is letting them. Consequently, Dr. Novella is seen as a much more serious threat than I or many of the other bloggers who have criticized the whole claim that vaccines somehow “trigger” autism in children with mitochondrial disorders. He has to be countered; he can’t be ignored. A counterattack had to be launched.

My only question is this: Who put Dr. Poling up to writing that letter? J. B. Handley, perhaps? David Kirby? Mark Blaxill? Who knows? What I do know is that this reeks of a coordinated program, given that Dr. Poling’s letter has been posted at Age of Autism and David Kirby has posted about this on the Huffington Post.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Jon Poling — the antivax exponent cited above — has both a wife and a colleague who disagree strongly with him as to the cause of his child’s autism:

I don’t think anyone disputes that your daughter has autism according to the DSM-IV criteria.

What we do (at least I do) doubt is that her autism was ’caused’ by her vaccines. I’ve seen no definitive statements from anyone aside from yourself and David that that is the case. The case study you co-authored with Shoffner et al stated ‘autistic-like’ symptoms following vaccination. This means she had symptoms like those found in autism and indeed, a side-by-side comparison of those listed in your case study and the DSM-IV criteria clearly shows that Hannah lacks a goodly amount necessary to give her a diagnosis of autism.

Indeed, this also seems to be the opinion of one of your co-authors – John Shoffner, who states:

Jon Poling, says Shoffner, has been “muddying the waters” with some of his comments. “There is no precedent for that type of thinking and no data for that type of thinking,” Shoffner says.

and indeed, your wife, Terry Poling RN, made this statement to the Yahoo Group ‘Recovered Children’ in Nov 2001*:

She has mitochondrial disease which causes her autism.

No mention of vaccines causing her autism.

This is by no means the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning.

*Actually, she made the statement in March 2004, in Post #12098 on the Recovered Kids Yahoo Group. I now have a screen shot in case it’s ever made to go away.

Posted in science and medicine | 10 Comments »

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