Moses vs Santa Claus (for those who are yet to see it) and other hilarities


Moses vs Santa Claus (for those who are yet to see it) and other hilarities

No intro needed. Just pretty funny!

 

And while you’re here, this is sheer genius:

 

And more genius (Jesus as a racist):

 

And Charlie Brooker on the Pope resigning:

 

And finally, this is sheer brilliance (if you are easily offended by swearing, stay clear):

 

 

– See more at: http://skepticink.com/tippling/2013/02/28/moses-vs-santa-claus-for-those-who-are-yet-to-see-it/#sthash.vAV5m0vB.dpuf

Oscar Prints the Legend of Argo


Oscar Prints the Legend: Argo’s Upcoming Academy Award and the Failure of Truth

  One year ago, after his breathtakingly beautiful Iranian drama, “A Separation,” won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, writer/director Asghar Farhadi delivered the best acceptance speech of the night.

“[A]t the time when talk of war, intimidation, and aggression is exchanged between politicians,” he said, Iran was finally being honored for “her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.” Farhadi dedicated the Oscar “to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”

Such grace and eloquence will surely not be on display this Sunday, when Ben Affleck, flanked by his co-producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, takes home the evening’s top prize, the Best Picture Oscar, for his critically-acclaimed and heavily decorated paean to the CIA and American innocence, “Argo.”
Over the past 12 months, rarely a week – let alone month – went by without new predictions of an ever-imminent Iranian nuclear weapon and ever-looming threats of an American or Israeli military attack. Come October 2012, into the fray marched “Argo,” a decontextualized, ahistorical “true story” of Orientalist proportion, subjecting audiences to two hours of American victimization and bearded barbarians, culminating in popped champagne corks and rippling stars-and-stripes celebrating our heroism and triumph and their frustration and defeat.  Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir aptly described the film as “a propaganda fable,” explaining as others have that essentially none of its edge-of-your-seat thrills or most memorable moments ever happened.  O’Hehir sums up:

The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.

One of the actual diplomats, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie “cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.” The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful.  “If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”

Furthermore, Jimmy Carter has even acknowledged  that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the  plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the  American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a  day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was  the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

Taylor himself recently remarked that “Argo” provides a myopic representation of both Iranians and their revolution, ignoring their “more hospitable side and an intent that they were looking for some degree of justice and hope and that it all wasn’t just a violent demonstration for nothing.”
“The amusing side, Taylor said, “is the script writer in Hollywood had no idea what he’s talking about.”

O’Hehir perfectly articulates the film’s true crime, its deliberate exploitation of “its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological.” Not only is it “a trite cavalcade of action-movie clichés and expository dialogue,” but “[i]t’s also a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology.”

Such an assessment is confirmed by Ben Affleck’s own comments about the film.  In describing “Argo” to Bill O’Reilly, Affleck boasted, “You know, it was such a great story. For one thing, it’s a thriller. It’s actually comedy with the Hollywood satire. It’s a complicated CIA movie, it’s a political movie. And it’s all true.”  He told Rolling Stone that, when conceiving his directorial approach, he knew he “absolutely had to preserve the central integrity and truth of the story.”

“It’s OK to embellish, it’s OK to compress, as long as you don’t  fundamentally change the nature of the story and of what happened,” Affleck has remarked, even going so far as to tell reporters at Argo’s BFI London Film Festival premier, “This movie is about this story that took place, and it’s true, and I go to pains to contextualize it and to try to be even-handed in a way that just means we’re taking a cold, hard look at the facts.”

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Affleck went so far as to say, “I tried to make a movie that is absolutely just factual. And that’s another reason why I tried to be as true to the story as possible — because I didn’t want it to be used by either side. I didn’t want it to be politicized internationally or domestically in a partisan way. I just wanted to tell a story that was about the facts as I understood them.”
For Affleck, these facts apparently don’t include understanding why the American Embassy in Tehran was overrun and occupied on November 4, 1979.  “There was no rhyme or reason to this action,” Affleck has insisted, claiming that the takeover “wasn’t about us,” that is, the American government (despite the fact that his own film is introduced by a fleeting – though frequently inaccurate1 – review of American complicity in the Shah’s dictatorship).

Wrong, Ben.  One reason was the fear of another CIA-engineered coup d’etat like the one perpetrated in 1953 from the very same Embassy. Another reason was the admission of the deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment and asylum rather than extradition to Iran to face charge and trial for his quarter century of crimes against the Iranian people, bankrolled and supported by the U.S. government.  One doesn’t have to agree with the reasons, of course, but they certainly existed.

Just as George H.W. Bush once bellowed after a U.S. Navy warship blew an Iranian passenger airliner out of the sky over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 Iranian civilians, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”  Affleck appears inclined to agree.

If nothing else, “Argo” is an exercise in American exceptionalism – perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity.  It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat.  The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans.  The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened.

“Argo” recasts revolutionary Iranians as the hapless victims of American cunning and deception.  White Americans are hunted, harried and, ultimately courageous and free.  Iranians are maniacal, menacing and, in the end, infantile and foolish.  The fanatical fundamentalists fail while America wins. USA -1, Iran – 0.  Yet, “Argo” obscures the unfortunate truth that, as those six diplomats were boarding a plane bound for Switzerland on January 28, 1980, their 52 compatriots would have to wait an entire year before making it home, not as the result of a daring rescue attempt, but after a diplomatic agreement was reached.
Reflecting on the most troubled episodes in American history is a time-honored cinematic tradition. There’s a reason why the best Vietnam movies are full of pain, anger, anguish and war crimes.  By contrast,

“Argo” is American catharsis porn; pure Hollywood hubris.  It is pro-American propaganda devoid of introspection, pathos or humility and meant to assuage our hurt feelings.  In “Argo,” no lessons are learned by revisiting the consequences of America’s support for the Pahlavi monarchy or its creation and training of SAVAK, the Shah’s vicious secret police.

On June 11, 1979, months before the hostage crisis began, the New York Times published an article by writer and historian A.J. Langguth which recounted revelations relayed by a former American intelligence official regarding the CIA’s close relationship with SAVAK.  The agency had “sent an operative to teach  interrogation methods to SAVAK” including “instructions in torture, and the techniques were  copied from the Nazis.”  Langguth wrestled with the news, trying to figure out why this had not been widely reported in the media.  He came to the following conclusion:

We – and I  mean we as Americans – don’t believe it. We can read the accusations,  even examine the evidence and find it irrefutable. But, in our hearts,  we cannot believe that Americans have gone abroad to spread the use of  torture.
We can believe that public officials with  reputations for brilliance can be arrogant, blind or stupid. Anything  but evil. And when the cumulative proof becomes overwhelming that our  representatives in the C.I.A. or the Agency for International  Development police program did in fact teach torture, we excuse  ourselves by vilifying the individual men.

Similarly, at a time when the CIA is waging an illegal, immoral, unregulated and always expanding drone execution program, the previous administration’s CIA kidnappers and torturers are protected from prosecution by the current administration, and leaked State Department cables reveal orders for U.S. diplomats to spy on United Nations officials, it is surreal that such homage is being paid to that very same organization by the so-called liberals of the Tinsel Town elite.

Upon winning his Best Director Golden Globe last month, Ben Affleck obsequiously praised the “clandestine service as well as the foreign service that is making sacrifices on behalf of the American people everyday [and] our troops serving over seas, I want to thank them very much,” a statement echoed almost identically by co-producer Grant Heslov when “Argo” later won Best Drama.

This comes as no surprise, considering Affleck had previously described “Argo” as “a tribute” to the “extraordinary, honorable people at the CIA” during an interview on Fox News.
The relationship between Hollywood and the military and intelligence arms of the U.S. government have long been cozy.  “When the CIA or the Pentagon says, ‘We’ll help you, if you play ball  with us,’ that’s favoring one form of speech over another. It becomes  propaganda,” David Robb, author of “Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies” told The Los Angeles Times. “The danger for filmmakers is that their product —  entertainment and information — ends up being government spin.”

Awarding “Argo” the Best Picture Oscar is like Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize: an undeserved accolade fawningly bestowed upon a dubious recipient based on a transparent fiction; an award for what never was and never would be and a decision so willfully naïve and grotesque it discredits whatever relevance and prestige the proceedings might still have had.*
So this Sunday night, when “Argo” has won that coveted golden statuette, it will be clear that we have yet again been blinded by the heavy dust of politics and our American mantra of hostility and resentment will continue to inform our decisions, dragging us closer and closer to the abyss.
***** ***** *****
* Yes, in this analogy, the equivalent of Henry Kissinger is obviously 2004’s dismal “Crash.”
*****
1 The introduction of “Argo” is a dazzingly sloppy few minutes of caricatured history of Iran, full of Orientalist images of violent ancient Persians (harems and all), which gets many basic facts wrong.  In fact, it is shocking this intro made it to release as written and recorded.

Here are some of the problems:
1. The voiceover narration says, “In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mossadegh, the secular democrat, Prime Minister.  He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people.”

Mossadegh was elected to the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in 1944. He did not become Prime Minister until April 1951 and was not “elected by the people of Iran.” Rather, he was appointed to the position by the representatives of the Majlis.

Also, the United States did not have petroleum interests in Iran at the time.

2. After briefly describing the 1953 coup, the narrator says Britain and the United States “installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah.”

Wow. First, the Shah’s name was not Reza Pahlavi. That is his father’s (and son’s) name. Furthermore, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not installed as Shah since had already been Shah of Iran since September 1941, after Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran and forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi.
During the coup in 1953, the Shah fled to Baghdad, then Rome. After Mossadegh had been forced out, the Shah returned to the Peacock Throne.

This is not difficult information to come by, and yet the screenwriter and director of “Argo” didn’t bother looking it up. And guess what? Ben Affleck actually majored in Middle East Studies in college. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t graduate.

The rest of the brief intro, while mentioning the torture of SAVAK, glosses over the causes of the revolution, but lingers on the violence that followed.  As it ends, the words “Based on a True Story” appear on the screen. The first live action moment we see in “Argo” is of an American flag being burned.

So much for Affleck’s insistence that “Argo” is “not a political movie.”

Still, as Kevin B. Lee wrote in Slate last month, “This opening may very well be the reason why critics have given the film credit for being insightful and progressive—because nothing that follows comes close, and the rest of the movie actually undoes what this opening achieves.”

He continues,

Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde “white Americans in peril” storyline. It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies— still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience. After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimized for decades, the film marginalizes them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains. Yet this irony is overshadowed by a larger one: The heroes of the film, the CIA, helped create this mess in the first place. And their triumph is executed through one more ruse at the expense of the ever-dupable Iranians to cap off three decades of deception and manipulation.

And brilliantly concludes,

Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: A cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans. We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller.

*****
UPDATE: February 25, 2013 – On the heels of Oscar Night’s unsurprising coda (made all the more bizarre by the inclusion of Michelle Obama, surrounded by awkward-looking military personnel, presenting the Best Picture to “Argo” from the White House, providing a deeply disturbing governmental imprimatur to the entire proceedings), The Los Angeles Times published a report Monday morning about how “Argo” is being perceived in Iran by Iranians themselves.
The conclusion is clear from the headline: ‘Argo’s’ Oscar gets a thumbs-down in Iran. Journalists Ramin Mostaghim and Patrick J. McDonnell quote several Iranians who have seen the movie, bootlegs of which are widely available, all of whom clearly have a better grasp on, not only the politics, but also the art (or lack thereof) of cinema itself.  “The perception that the film portrayed Iranians uniformly as bearded, violent fanatics rankled many who recall that Iran’s 1979 revolution had both secular and religious roots — and ousted a dictatorial monarch, the shah of Iran, reviled as a corrupt and brutal puppet of Washington,” Mostaghim and McDonnel explain.  Here’s what we hear from Iranians themselves:

“I am secular, atheist and not pro-regime but I think the film ‘Argo’ has distorted history and insulted Iranians,” said Hossain, a cafe owner worried about business because of customers’ lack of cash in a sanctions-battered economy. “For me, it wasn’t even a good thriller.”

“I did not enjoy seeing my fellow countrymen and women insulted,” said Farzaneh Haji, an educated homemaker and fan of romantic movies who was 18 at the time of the revolution. “The men then were not all bearded and fanatical. To be anti-American was a fashionable idea among young people across the board. Even non-bearded and U.S.-educated men and women were against American imperialism.”

“As an action film or thriller, the film was good, but it was not believable, especially the way the six Americans escaped from the airport,” said Farshid Farivar, 49, a Hollywood devotee, as he stretched his legs in an office where he does promotional work. “At any rate, it was an average film and did not deserve an Oscar.”

The piece ends with the reporters speaking with Abbas Abdi, one of the revolutionary students who planned the seizure of the American Embassy in 1979 and who spent some time in prison a decade ago for criticisms of the Iranian government:

In a brief telephone interview on Monday, Abdi said the Oscars had plummeted to the feeble level of Iran’s own Fajr Film Festival, not exactly one of the luminaries on the international movie awards circuit.
“The Oscars are now vulgar and have standards as low as our own film festival,” he said. “The Oscars deserve ‘Argo’ and ‘Argo’ deserves the Oscars.”

USA Today also has an Oscar follow-up entitled, “Tourists see a different Iran reality than ‘Argo’ image,” which details the warmth, generosity and hospitality of Iranians experienced by travelers when visiting Iran.

THE UNBELIEVERS


THE UNBELIEVERS Official Trailer (Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss)

‘The Unbelievers’ follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world – encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues.

The film includes interviews with celebrities and other influential people who support the work of these controversial speakers, including:
Ricky Gervais
Woody Allen
Cameron Diaz
Stephen Hawking
Sarah Silverman
Bill Pullman
Werner Herzog
Tim Minchin
Eddie Izzard
Ian McEwan
Adam Savage
Ayaan Hirsi-Ali
Penn Jillette
Sam Harris
Dan Dennett
James Randi
Cormac McCarthy
Paul Provenza
James Morrison
Michael Shermer
David Silverman …and more.

continue to source article at youtube.com

 

Hell’s Angel: Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens | The Old Hag of Calcutta


The Old Hag of Calcutta

mother teresa f3efde16d0763e28b11cbb587d4aafe0

Hell’s Angel: Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens (1 of 3)

Part 1 of 3 – During her lifetime Mother Teresa had become synonymous with saintliness. But in 1994, three years before her death, journalist Christopher Hitchens made this provocative film asking if her reputation was deserved.

Hell’s Angel: Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens (2 of 3)

Part 2 of 3 – During her lifetime Mother Teresa had become synonymous with saintliness. But in 1994, three years before her death, journalist Christopher Hitchens made this provocative film asking if her reputation was deserved.

Hell’s Angel: Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens (3 of 3)

Part 3 of 3 – During her lifetime Mother Teresa had become synonymous with saintliness. But in 1994, three years before her death, journalist Christopher Hitchens made this provocative film asking if her reputation was deserved.

https://theageofblasphemy.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/mother-teresa-sadistic-religious-fanatic/

 

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Who We Are In The Dark: Zero Dark Thirty & Torture…


Who We Are In The Dark: Zero Dark Thirty & Torture…
Posted by Darren

That Zero Dark Thirty should come under fire for its use and portrayal of torture is not surprising. The film deserves to spark debate about how we respond to these sorts of threats, and critically examine our claim to the moral high ground. However, the debate seems overly simplistic. It has been suggested that the controversy over torture cost director Kathryn Bigelow a Best Director nomination, and that’s a shame. The fact she’s felt to the need to respond to these relatively shallow commentaries is less than heartening.

Zero Dark Thirty has a lot to say about torture. It’s a lot of thoughtful and insightful and nuanced stuff, and Zero Dark Thirty actually gets to the nub of the issue, very clearly condemning the culture of “enhanced interrogation”, in a way that is much more effective than any of the commentators seem to realise.

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I’m fascinated by the role of morality in cinema, and our reaction towards the various ways that it can be presented. Sometimes, earnest condemnation of a particular philosophy or movement or practise is necessary. Most would agree, for example, that Schindler’s List is a tremendously powerful piece of cinema that is not diminished by the direct approach it takes to its subject matter. There is not ambiguity in its depiction of a historical atrocity, because there is not ambiguity about that historical atrocity. Sometimes we need to be confronted with these powerful and shocking images so that we might move closer to comprehending the horror of what occurred.

However, sometimes that earnestness can be too much – particularly for recent events. There is a reason that The Washington Times referred to The Dark Knight as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film.” One of the most powerful explorations of murky War on Terror morality came from a blockbuster about a man dressed as a bat chasing a clown around Chicago. More earnest films like Lions for Lambs or Rendition had tackled the issues too bluntly, trying to reduce an entire moral quagmire into a selection of glib moral cliff notes far too simplistic to really delve into the issues.

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Let’s talk about torture. It’s an issue that has dwelt on the public consciousness for quite some time. Even before those iconic images of the prisoners in Abu Gharib were released, the question of how we respond to the threat of global terrorism plays a significant role in defining the morality of the twenty-first century. It’s worth noting that Zero Dark Thirty is not set at the same level as those abuses occurred. The torture depicted in the film is not conducted by a bunch of soldiers recording their actions for their own perverse pleasure.

The “enhanced interrogation” in the film is mostly conducted by Dan, the CIA operative played by Jason Clarke. Clarke is not a low-level army officer. He’s a veteran CIA officer. He keeps (and feeds) monkeys. He has a PhD and is characterised as quite intelligent. He uses words like “tautology”, and it’s clear that he has some idea what he is doing. While he manipulates those people in his custody, he is consistently portrayed as level-headed and rational. He’s not an angry sadist lashing out some pent up frustration or aggression at a hapless victim.

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Reading that description, it’s easy to see how the film could be argued to be “pro-torture”, as many of its detractors have claimed. Certainly, it avoids making easy choices that could be read as condemnation. After all, quite a few of the conventional criticisms of torture are not really handled here. There’s a stock supply of arguments that people who object to the application of torture will present to support their position. There’s the question of what happens if we torture the wrong person, for example. Or the question of whether we can trust the information we receive under torture.

Neither of these arguments against torture gets a lot of space in Zero Dark Thirty. If anybody in the film is wrongly accused, we never hear about it. There’s never a moment of realisation where our investigators pick on a character we know to be innocent, or who later turns out to be innocent. Of course, we have only the word of the characters that these suspects are guilty. A few give up information that would point to their guilt, but there are a couple who we don’t see offering anything insightful or meaningful. So, in its portrayal of torture, the film never really delves into the question of guilt of the victim.

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Similarly, we never question the information we receive under torture. Early in the film, the operatives fail to stop a high-profile terrorist attack. Quite simply, they do not “break” the suspect in time. The attack goes ahead, and people die as a result. This might seem to acknowledge the fact that torture doesn’t work, but it’s hardly a black-and-white condemnation. After all, no other method of information-gathering proves more effective, and the torture of the same suspect proves to ultimately pay off.

The CIA agents rather shrewdly trick their suspect into thinking that he broke and then get him to reveal all his information over a nice meal together in the sunshine. Some might argue that this is not a depiction of torture procuring vital information, but that is a bit over-simplistic. After all, the trick is only possible due to the short-term memory loss that develops as a result of the sleep deprivation, which is a method of torture employed by the CIA.

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So Zero Dark Thirty avoids these two easy arguments against torture. However, I wouldn’t consider that as evidence of a pro-torture bias. Those arguments aren’t the root of the reason that we condemn torture. There’s a reason that they are used so frequently, but they aren’t the core of the issue. We use the “wrong victim” argument and “incorrect information” argument to attack the practicality of torture. They’re easy to relate to, and to understand. They are possibilities, of course, and they grab us because they directly affect us.

Somebody we know could be wrongly tortured. We could be wrongly tortured. It’s easy enough to see how such an argument makes a compelling case against torture. Would you really trust the state not to make a mistake? Would you really give the government that much power? It’s a raw, visceral, powerful argument – but it’s not the heart of the issue. Similarly, the argument about incorrect information is easy enough to understand. Would you really do that to a person if nothing of use would come from it? I mean, even if you knew you had the right person? And, based on that other argument, that’s a big “if.”

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These arguments are appealing. They are easy to understand. They are useful in the argument against torture. However, they dance around the central point. They are practical arguments that skirt around the real moral issue. After all, surely if you are against torture, you should be against torture even in situations where you have the right person and it will give you the information that you need? Because if you accept that there is one case where torture would be justified by meeting a set of hypothetical circumstances, then it becomes a numbers game.

If it’s right to torture that one guy to save thousands of lives, then can we balance the possible mistake against that metric? Fighters may be dispatched to shoot down a hijacked passenger airplane; innocents will die, but more lives will be saved. If your objections to torture are purely practical, then it becomes a simple question of scaling the numbers. How many lives does “enhanced interrogation” have to save before you’re willing to write off one mistake, one miscalculation, one error?

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These arguments are susceptable to the “ticking clock” scenario, one very common in the early years of 24. The notion that torture is only objectionable because of the chance of harming an innocent party, or because it is potentially ineffective, suggests that there are situations where one might somehow be able to mitigate those risks, or counter them entirely. These objections to torture are easy to understand, and are quite appealing, but they also belie the root philosophical problem with torture.

Any sincere objection to torture must be grounded in the notion that any application of torture – no matter what surrounding circumstances or outside concerns – is inherently immoral. Torture is wrong, even if you are torturing a guilty party. Torture is wrong, even if it will get you the information you want. The fact that the party might be innocent and the information may be incorrect are concerns, and are very serious possibilities, but they don’t form a fundamental objection to the philosophical idea torture. And it is shallow to suggest that just because a movie doesn’t play to either of these arguments, it must be “pro-torture.”

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A strong argument against torture must be rooted in the concession that it might be possible to torture a guilty person, and it might be possible to garner useful information from it. In Zero Dark Thirty, the nugget that leads to Bin Ladin doesn’t originate under torture, but the revelation of this pre-existing piece of information during torture solidifies its importance to our lead character, Maya. In the opening scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, a terrorist is tortured and he gives information that prompts our protagonist to find Osama Bin Ladin, years later.

And – here’s the thing – it’s possible for Zero Dark Thirty to show an effective use of torture and still condemn it. In fact, its condemnation is stronger because it concedes the appeal of torture. The CIA did not have a systemic policy of “enhanced interrogation” because the technique was entirely useless. It trained interrogators and operated secret facilities because those methods produced information that was of use. From a purely financial and resource-driven point of view, there wold be no reason to use “enhanced interrogation” if it didn’t work. And it is very important to concede that just because it could be useful doesn’t mean that it’s right.

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A fundamental objection to torture doesn’t care if torture is completely entirely effective. It doesn’t care that the person being tortured might be guilty. The fundamental objection to torture doesn’t believe that torture can be mitigated or tempered by success. Torture taints. It doesn’t just taint when it fails, it also taints when it succeeds. Every time it is used, it says something about our society. Not every time it is used against an innocent, or every time it fails to stop an attack. Every single time torture is used, it diminishes us and says something about our way of life that we should be ashamed of.

And that is what Zero Dark Thirty argues. Those torture scenes are damn uncomfortable to watch, and they should be.The CIA might use the term “enhanced interrogation”, but what we see is cold-blooded torture. We see waterboarding up close. We see suspects kept awake and delirious. We see them walked around on leads like dogs. We see them locked in boxes. We see them beaten. We see them tied up so long that they soil themselves.

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This isn’t meant to be heroic. This is mean to be unnerving, disturbing and sickening. It is tough to watch. It is repulsive. There is no ambiguity there. Dan suggests that there’s “no shame” if Maya wants to stand outside. We might suggest that there’s no shame if Kathryn Bigelow had opted to whitewash all this out and pretend it never happened. Certainly the temptation must have been there. After all, if she had left these scenes out, the film would have probably generated less controversy. Personally, I bet she’d have an Oscar nomination.

However, to leave those scenes out would have been dishonest. It would have been cheap, and it would have avoided a vital issue. It is very easy to rationalise and justify torture if we ignore the fundamental unpleasantness of the act, the way that it cheapens us and undermines our authority and morality. This conduct isn’t fiction, and neither is the idea that it might provide workable intelligence. To ignore either reality is to do a disservice to an anti-torture argument. To pretend it’s not there, or to pretend it is always ineffective, cheapens any stance against this.

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These scenes taint our view of the characters, and they should. Maya doesn’t directly participate in the first torture scene, but she is compromised by association. She enables. She passes Dan the water to waterboard a suspect. She uses the information garnered. Maya never directly tortures. Later on, she even uses a surrogate pair of hands. However, the film is absolutely unequivocal. She is torturing. And that torturing taints her.

We see that with Dan as well. He might be smart, and he might be educated, but it’s clear that he has been tainted by what he is doing. Mid-way through the film, he opts to get out of the torture unit. And he complains about the death of his monkeys. It’s a moment that exists to make his priorities clear. This is a man who routinely tortures and causes suffering to human beings. At the end of it all, however, the only sympathy he has is for a bunch of monkeys. If you want to talk about the dehumanising effect of torture, it doesn’t get more effective than that.

zerodarkthirty6

Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t opt for a feel-good simplistic condemnation of torture. Instead, it dares to suggest that torture is inherently abhorrent even if you torture the right people and get the right information. It’s a brave and thoughtful argument, and one well constructed. It’s a shame that so many missed the point.

Raving Lunatic Alex Jones “Spits” On Co-Lunatic Glenn Beck


Alex Jones rails against Glenn Beck: Jefferson would spit on you, you little b*stard
By Eric W. Dolan
                                             
Alex Jones screenshot

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones slammed conservative personality Glenn Beck on Monday, attacking his supposed libertarian credentials.

“Glenn Beck is despicable,” Jones told The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur. “He has five guys watching everything I do, taking my news articles. Listen, four or five year ago he wouldn’t talk about any of this stuff. Now he takes it but spins it in a neocon way, and I’m sick and tired of him. He’s a punk. He called me a fascist. This is a guy who made jokes about torture and said it was a great thing. This is a guy who supports drones. This is a guy that supports the PATRIOT Act.”

On his radio show last week, Beck claimed Jones was not a conservative and also said Jones was being used by the media to push for more restrictions on firearms. Beck’s comments came after an eccentric interview between Jones and CNN’s Piers Morgan.

“I’m a constitutional libertarian who loves freedom, and my views are my own, and that little piece of trash needs to know this,” Jones continued. “You jackass mainline conservatives don’t speak for me. You’re the ones that have discredited true conservatism and libertarianism. Thomas Jefferson would spit on you, you little bastard, you little piece of trash. That’s what I have to say to Glenn Beck. I’m sick of him.”

But Jones, who has mastered the art of monology, wasn’t finished there. The prominent conspiracy theorist claimed he was the driving force behind conservative radio talking points.

“I saw that 15 minute clip where they attacked me. They looked scared because they’re a bunch of nelly punks who can’t stand the fact that I’m the one who’s turning the ship around. I’m the one that’s got all the conservative hosts aping my information and my talking points, because I’m original and I’ve done the research. I’m leading the pack and all these fake jackass conservatives know it.”

Watch video, courtesy of Current TV, below:

http://current.com/shows/the-young-turks/videos/alex-jones-to-glenn-beck-thomas-jefferson-would-spit-on-you

http://current.com/shows/the-young-turks/videos/cenk-uygurs-extended-unedited-interview-with-alex-jones-part-1

‘Happy Atheist’ Ricky Gervais Rewrites Pat Robertson


‘Happy atheist’ Ricky Gervais rewrites Pat Robertson
By Nick Ramsey
Video here:-

On the latest edition of MSNBC’s The Last Word, host Lawrence O’Donnell relied on some wise words from comedian Ricky Gervais to rewrite some less-than-wise words from religious television host Pat Robertson.

In a recent edition of his show, The 700 Club, Robertson accused atheists of trying to ruin the Christmas holiday:

“Well, it’s Christmas all over again. Uh, the Grinch is trying to steal our holiday… Atheists don’t like our happiness. They don’t want you to be happy, they want you to be miserable. They’re miserable so they want you to be miserable. So they want to steal your holiday away from you.”

That flies in the face of something comedian Ricky Gervais, a vocal atheist, wrote about Christmas two years back. Just before Christmas in 2010, Gervais wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal explaining his atheism.

Gervais also wrote a follow-up three days later taking questions from Wall Street Journal readers. It is from that second post that O’Donnell found the right words to rewrite Pat Robertson’s claims on atheists who “want to steal” Christmas from Christians. Gervais wrote that he celebrates Christmas in the following way:

Celebrating life and remembering those that did, but can no longer… They are not looking down on me but they live in my mind and heart more than they ever did probably. Some, I was lucky enough to bump into on this planet of six billion people. Others shared much of my genetic material. One selflessly did her best for me all my life. That’s what mums do though. They do it for no other reason than love.

Gervais ended his piece by wishing “Peace to all mankind. Christian, Jew, Muslim and Atheist.” That led to O’Donnell’s conclusion, “the happy atheist Ricky Gervais is actually more Christ-like than the Reverend Pat Robertson.”

Tommy Emmanuel | Guitar Boogie!


Another version of Arthur Smith’s “Guitar Boogie”. This version by Tommy is one of my favourites. Great playing by the guitar master!
Tommy Emmanuel | Guitar Boogie!

 

Religious Nutcase Kirk Cameron Causes The American Taliban To Drool


Kirk Cameron: “God IS the Platform”
The Christian Taliban movement
Wingnuts

Today’s moment of right wing religious fanaticism comes from former child star Kirk Cameron, who says, “one of our parties is wondering whether the name God should be in the platform,” but according to America’s founding fathers, “God is the platform!

The crowd cheers this line in a very disturbing way.