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Smart Politics in Pictures and Words
Updated: 4 hours 18 min ago
Originally published at Breaking Modern:
Originally published at ANewDomain.net:
Most people know that Silicon Valley has a diversity problem. Women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in Big Tech. Racist and sexist job discrimination are obviously unfair. They also shape a toxic, insular white male “bro” culture that generates periodic frat-boy eruptions (see, for example, the recent wine-fueled rant of an Uber executive who mused — to journalists — that he’d like to pay journalists to dig up dirt on journalists who criticize Uber. What could go wrong?)
This is progress, but it still leaves Silicon Valley with its biggest dirty secret: rampant, brazen age discrimination.
“Walk into any hot tech company and you’ll find disproportionate representation of young Caucasian and Asian males,” University of Washington computer scientist Ed Lazowska told The San Francisco Chronicle. “All forms of diversity are important, for the same reasons: workforce demand, equality of opportunity and quality of end product.”
Overt bigotry against older workers — we’re talking about anyone over 30 here — has been baked into the Valley’s infantile attitudes since the dot-com crash 14 years ago.
Life may begin at 50 elsewhere, but in the tech biz the only thing certain about middle age is unemployment.
The tone is set by the industry’s top CEOs. “When Mark Zuckerberg was 22, he said five words that might haunt him forever. ‘Younger people are just smarter,’ the Facebook wunderkind told his audience at a Y Combinator event at Stanford University in 2007. If the merits of youth were celebrated in Silicon Valley at the time, they have become even more enshrined since,” Alison Griswold writes in Slate.
It’s illegal, under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, to pass up a potential employee for hire, or to fail to promote, or to fire a worker, for being too old. But don’t bother telling that to a tech executive. What used to be a meritocracy has become a don’t-hire-anyone-over-30 (certainly not over 40) — right under the nose of the tech media.
Which isn’t surprising. The supposed watchdogs of the Fourth Estate are wearing the same blinders as their supposed prey. The staffs of news sites like Valleywag and Techcrunch skew as young as the companies they cover.
A 2013 BuzzFeed piece titled ” What It’s Like Being The Oldest BuzzFeed Employee” (subhead: “I am so, so lost, every workday.”) by a 53-year-old BuzzFeed editor “old enough to be the father of nearly every other editorial employee” (average age: late 20s) reads like a repentant landlord-class sandwich-board confession during China’s Cultural Revolution: “These whiz-kids completely baffle me, daily. I am in a constant state of bafflement at BF HQ. In fact, I’ve never been more confused, day-in and day-out, in my life.” It’s the most pathetic attempt at self-deprecation I’ve read since the transcripts of Stalin’s show trials.
A few months later, the dude got fired by his boss (15 years younger): “This is just not working out, your stuff. Let’s just say, it’s ‘creative differences.’”
Big companies are on notice that they’re on the wrong side of employment law. They just don’t care.
Slate reports: “In 2011, Google reached a multimillion-dollar settlement in a…suit with computer scientist Brian Reid, who was fired from the company in 2004 at age 54. Reid claimed that Google employees made derogatory comments about his age, telling him he was ‘obsolete,’ ‘sluggish,’ and an ‘old fuddy-duddy’ whose ideas were ‘too old to matter.’ Other companies—including Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo—have gotten themselves in hot water by posting job listings with ‘new grad‘ in the description. In 2013, Facebook settled a case with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department over a job listing for an attorney that noted ‘Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred.’”
Because the fines and settlements have been mere slaps on the wrist, the cult of the Youth Bro is still going strong.
To walk the streets of Austin during tech’s biggest annual confab, South by Southwest Interactive, is to experience a society where Boomers and Gen Xers have vanished into a black hole. Photos of those open-space offices favored by start-ups document workplaces where people over 35 are as scarce as women on the streets of Kandahar. From Menlo Park to Palo Alto, token fortysomethings wear the nervous shrew-like expressions of creatures in constant danger of getting eaten — dressed a little too young, heads down, no eye contact, hoping not to be noticed.
“Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America,” Noam Scheiber reported in a New Republic feature that describes tech workers as young as 26 seeking plastic surgery in order to stave off the early signs of male pattern baldness and minor skin splotches on their faces.
Whatever you do, don’t look your age — unless your age is 22.
“Robert Withers, a counselor who helps Silicon Valley workers over 40 with their job searches, told me he recommends that older applicants have a professional snap the photo they post on their LinkedIn page to ensure that it exudes energy and vigor, not fatigue,” Scheiber writes. “He also advises them to spend time in the parking lot of a company where they will be interviewing so they can scope out how people dress.”
The head of the most prominent start-up incubator told The New York Times that most venture capitalists in the Valley won’t take a pitch from anyone over 32.
In early November, VCs handed over several hundred thousand bucks to a 13-year-old.
Aside from the legal and ethical considerations, does Big Tech’s cult of youth matter? Scheiber says hell yes: “In the one corner of the American economy defined by its relentless optimism, where the spirit of invention and reinvention reigns supreme, we now have a large and growing class of highly trained, objectively talented, surpassingly ambitious workers who are shunted to the margins, doomed to haunt corporate parking lots and medical waiting rooms, for reasons no one can rationally explain. The consequences are downright depressing.”
One result of ageism that jumps to the top of my mind is brain drain. Youthful vigor is vital to success in business. So is seasoned experience. The closer an organization reflects society at large, the smarter it is.
A female colleague recently called to inform me that she was about to get laid off from her job as an editor and writer for a major tech news site. (She was, of course, the oldest employee at the company.) Naturally caffeinated, addicted to the Internet and pop culture, she’s usually the smartest person in the room. I see lots of tech journalism openings for which she’d be a perfect fit, yet she’s at her wit’s end. “I’m going to jump off a bridge,” she threatened. “What else can I do? I’m 45. No one’s ever going to hire me.” Though I urged her not to take the plunge, I couldn’t argue with her pessimism. Objectively, though, I think the employers who won’t talk to her are idiots. For their own sakes.
Just a month before, I’d met with an executive of a major tech news site who told me I wouldn’t be considered for a position due to my age. “Aside from being stupid,” I replied, “you do know that’s illegal, right?”
“No one enforces it,” he shrugged. He’s right. The feds don’t even keep national statistics on hiring by age.
The median American worker is age 42. The median age at Facebook, Google, AOL and Zynga, on the other hand, is 30 or younger. Twitter, which recently got hosed in an age discrimination lawsuit, has a median age of 28.
It’s easy to suss out why: they prefer to hire cheaper, more disposable, more flexible (willing to work longer hours) younger workers. Apple and Facebook recently made news by offering to freeze its female workers’ eggs so they can delay parenthood in order to devote their 20s and 30s to the company.
The dirty secret is not so secret when you scour online want ads. “Many tech companies post openings exclusively for new or recent college graduates, a pool of candidates that is overwhelmingly in its early twenties,” Verne Kopytoff writes in Fortune.
“It’s nothing short of rampant,” said UC David comp sci professor Norm Matloff, about age discrimination against older software developers. Adding to the grim irony for Gen Xers: today’s fortysomethings suffered reverse age discrimination — old people in power screwing the young — at the hands of Boomers in charge when they were entering the workforce.
Once too young to be trusted, now too old to get hired.
Ageist hiring practices are so over-the-top illegal, you have to wonder: do these jerks have in-house counsel?
Kopytoff: “Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Dropbox, and video game maker Electronic Arts all recently listed openings with ‘new grad’ in the title. Some companies say that recent college graduates will also be considered and then go on to specify which graduating classes—2011 or 2012, for instance—are acceptable.”
The feds take a dim view of these ads.
“In our view, it’s illegal,” Raymond Peeler, senior attorney advisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told Kopytoff. “We think it deters older applicants from applying.” Gee, you think? But the EEOC has yet to smack a tech company with a big fine.
The job market is supposed to eliminate efficiencies like this, where companies that need experienced reporters fire them while retaining writers who are so wet behind the ears you want to check for moss. But ageism is so ingrained into tech culture that it’s part of the scenery, a cultural signifier like choosing an iPhone over Android. Everyone takes it for granted.
Scheiber describes a file storage company’s annual Hack Week, which might as well be scientifically designed in order to make adults with kids and a mortgage run away screaming: “Dropbox headquarters turns into the world’s best-capitalized rumpus room. Employees ride around on skateboards and scooters, play with Legos at all hours, and generally tool around with whatever happens to interest them, other than work, which they are encouraged to set aside.”
No matter how cool a 55-year-old you are, you’re going to feel left out. Which, one suspects, is the point.
It’s impossible to overstate how ageist many tech outfits are.
Electronic Arts contacted Kopytoff to defend its “new grad” employment ads, only to confirm their bigotry. The company “defended its ads by saying that it hires people of all ages into its new grad program. To prove the point, the company said those accepted into the program range in age from 21 to 35. But the company soon had second thoughts about releasing such information, which shows a total absence of middle-aged hires in the grad program, and asked Fortune to withhold that detail from publication. (Fortune declined.)”
EA’s idea of age diversity is zero workers over 35.
Here is one case where an experienced, forty- or fifty- or even sixtysomething in-house lawyer or publicist might have saved them some embarrassment — and legal exposure.
In the big picture, Silicon Valley is hardly an engine of job growth; they haven’t added a single net new job since 1998. “Big” companies like Facebook and Twitter only hire a few thousand workers each. Instagram famously only had 13 when it went public. They have little interest in contributing to the commonweal. Nevertheless, tech ageism in the tiny tech sector has a disproportionately high influence on workplace practices in other workspaces. If it is allowed to continue, it will spread to other fields.
It’s hard to see how anything short of a massive class-action lawsuit — one that dings tech giants for billions of dollars — will make Big Tech hire Xers, much less Boomers.
Originally published at ANewDomain.net:
A long-awaited report on torture under the Bush administration has just been released – sort of. Actually, it’s just the 600-page “executive summary.” The full 6,000 pages remains classified. Still, it’s making big news, and for good reason: it’s the first official attempt by the political class to walk back some of the most extreme American responses to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. If you’re not like me, you haven’t been following the ins and outs of the torture debate since the very start. But I have, so I’m here to tell you what you need to know over the water cooler.
Not that much. The CIA already admitted that it had subjected three detainees – men suspected of terrorism but never formally charged under American law, kidnapped and brought to so-called “black sites” (CIA secret prisons around the world, in countries like Romania and Thailand) – to waterboarding, which is a form of simulated drowning widely considered to be torture under international law. Due to the new Senate report, we know that it happened to a lot more than just these three men. But that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows the CIA.
They’re liars. They’re spies. Same thing.
Most of the other revelations were previously leaked, including the use of threats to the lives of detainees’ wives and children, and of the use of a power drill during at least one torture session. Why is the media treating this stuff as new? After years of cuts in newsrooms, young journalists simply don’t remember this stuff or weren’t around when it happened.
What will happen as a result?
That’s hard to say, but probably nothing much.
US President Barack Obama set the tone back in early 2009, shortly after taking office, when he said that it was his inclination to look forward, not backward, by which he meant that the United States shouldn’t wallow in the past sins of the Bush administration by looking at torture and holding those responsible for it accountable. Backpedaling on that policy would open all sorts of cans of worms for him and his administration, setting the stage for unknown repercussions. Politicians rarely do this voluntarily. Don’t expect any calls for Bush-era torturers to be prosecuted, much less for the high-ranking officials, including former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and VP Dick Cheney, to be investigated.
So torture is pretty much a thing of the past, right?
Although Obama says the United States no longer tortures, there is nothing that has happened under his administration that would prevent a future president from authorizing torture again. Obama has never canceled or declared null and void the shoddily worded and legally dubious legal opinions issued by the Bush White House’s Office of Legal Counsel, which means that the legal infrastructure authorizing so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” remains in place. Which is why Obama used very lawyerly, very weasely words in his 2009 statement: “after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques…” The word “some” wasn’t an accident.
Even now, many of the abuses that took place at places like Guantánamo under Bush have been moved to more discreet locations such as a new expanded post-Guantánamo detention center for detainees held at Bagram airbase north of Kabul, Afghanistan. One of the reasons that Obama moved detainees from Cuba to Afghanistan was to be able to torture them more discreetly and deny them access to their lawyers, who were far more easily able to fly to Cuba.
Also, under the Obama rules, only the US military is specifically prohibited from torturing detainees. The CIA and other agencies in the so-called intelligence community still enjoy carte blanche. And Appendix M of the Army Field Manual still allows torture under Obama.
There’s a reason the Senate report doesn’t cover the period beyond 2009.
But now that people know the truth, aren’t they going to get mad and demand action?
Maybe, but there’s no reason to believe that now. The fact is, Americans have known for 12 years through one report after another, many of them filed by this reporter, and have chosen to either ignore the issue, shrug it off as a necessary way to extract information from terrorists who mean to attack the homeland, or outright applaud it as vengeance against those who mean us harm. True, Americans are much calmer now than they were in 2001 and 2002, but once a country has accepted a behavior as normal, it’s very hard for it to reconsider that and achieve a different political consensus. Also, there’s no evidence that there is widespread disgust among the public for torture. Earlier this year, a poll found that 68% of Americans approve of torture depending on the circumstances.
Still, you cynical bastard, isn’t this report better than no report at all?
Yes. The truth is always a good thing. There’s no way for a country to begin a journey toward redemption until it starts to acknowledge its sins. Speaking of which, don’t take Sen. John McCain too seriously. He talks a good game about torture now, but when he had the votes to pass a bill that would have banned torture, he succumbed to pressure from the Bush White House to remain quiet when the president issued a “signing statement,” stating that the US government would ignore the law.
President Obama told troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq that they are like “Santa in fatigues.” Coming one week after the Senate torture report, and in the middle of a ferocious drone war that kills scores more civilians than the targets of assassination, it’s doubtful that they are viewed as benignly overseas.
Originally published at Breaking Modern:
Like most children, I grew up in a house without a chimney or fireplace. This made the Santa myth, which relies on a child’s unawareness of the size of the earth and its population, immediately less credible. How did the jolly fat guy gain access to our home, I questioned my mother?
No answer. I could see the wheels turning.
“He couldn’t possibly fit down the flue? Could he?” I tried to help.
I opened the utility closet. The pipe from the central heater and air conditioning convection unit to the ceiling was about six inches in diameter. Santa ferret?
Mom gave up. (If this convo happened today, she could have ordered a prevarification aid like Santa’s Magical House Key.)
Anyway, mom sat me down and confessed the truth: there’s no Santa, just a 10th-century Nordic myth. There was a reason, after all, that gifts labeled “from Santa” shared the same distinct handwriting as my mom’s.
When I tell this story to friends who are parents, they react with horror. “How awful! She deprived you of your imagination! Didn’t she want you to enjoy your childhood?” That point of view is represented by a 2010 essay in the San Francisco Chronicle: “All these childhood myths serve a brilliant purpose: a gentle way for kids to learn well-intended parents are not always reliable sources of truth.”
A 2012 Slate piece argues that not every lie is created equal: “First: Let go of any guilt you have about duping your kids. Santa belongs in the ‘good lie’ pile because parents invoke him for their kids’ sake; bad lies are the ones parents use to deflect blame or avoid responsibility—we can’t go to the playground today because it’s closed, when really, you’re just too lazy to get off the couch.”
I come down on the exact opposite side: A lie is a lie is a lie.
My mother’s decision to tell the truth about the Christmas myth is something for which I will be grateful my entire life. It certainly doesn’t seem to have negatively impacted my imagination: I’m a successful cartoonist and an excellent storyteller. But it did establish at an early age that I could count on my mother to tell me the unvarnished, honest truth. I knew, for many years following that incident, that I could count upon her for a no bullshit view of the world. It strengthened my trust in her, and therefore in my love for her. It was definitely a win-win.
While other parents kept lying to their elementary school-aged and even older children, especially about sex, my mother replied to my question about the birds and the bees by taking down her college biology book and showing what went in where and what happened after that.
Don’t get me wrong. My mother and I didn’t have a perfect relationship. Breaches of faith opened up between us. Mostly, however, this occurred not when my mom tried to protect me from some kind of unpleasant truth, but when she tried to bullshit me.
Never lie to someone unless you are sure you will get away with it.
For whatever reason, my mom tried to blow smoke up my tuckus more when I was a teenager and therefore even less likely to fall for bullshit – especially since she had already made the “mistake” of teaching me critical thinking and reading between the lines. Suddenly God, previously an abstraction, was marketed to me as a real, living entity who knew everything that I was up to and would punish me if I did wrong.
Definitely a mistake to try this bigger version of the Santa myth on me. I remember thinking to myself, “wow, she really thinks I’m stupid. I don’t know why I would confide in her. And when I experienced teen crises – sex, drugs, depression, academic problems – I became less likely to confide or share.
You don’t need to be a psychologist specializing in early childhood to know that trust creates the strongest bond between humans. Whether it’s a friend or a parent, think about it: as an adult, you believe in people whom you can count upon to give it to you straight.
Children aren’t stupider than adults. They’re certainly more observant. Don’t insult their intelligence.
And don’t worry about stifling their imagination.
“The Santa Lie…does not actually promote imagination or imaginative play,” William Irwin and David Kyle Johnson write in Psychology Today. “Imagination involves pretending, and to pretend that something exists, one has to believe that thing doesn’t exist. Does the Christian “imagine” that Jesus rose from the dead? Does the Muslim “imagine” that Muhammed’s rode his horse Barack (Al Boraq) at lightening speed from Mecca to Jerusalem and then assended into heaven? Of course not; they believe these things are true. Tricking a child into literally believing that Santa exists doesn’t encourage imagination, it actually stifles it. If you really want to encourage imagination in your children, tell them that Santa doesn’t exist, but that you are going to pretend like he does anyway on Christmas morning.”
This Christmas season, don’t give in to the temptation of signing off on a ridiculously transparent lie that will begin to undermine your relationship with your child. Tell her the truth. She can take it. She’ll love you more for it.
This essay was originally published at ANewDomain.net:
You never forget your first time.
I remember thinking: “God, this is without a doubt the best, most natural feeling condom I have ever tried, and I totally take back everything that I ever said about condoms making sex feel like you’re wearing a raincoat or whatever, and I’m going to take careful note of the brand of this condom so that I can buy thousands and thousands of them so that I can continue to enjoy this experience even if, by some terrible act of capitalism gone awry, the outfit that makes them goes out of business.”
Then I looked down and realized that the reason that that particular condom felt so great was that it had broken.
A meta-study conducted by the Kinsey Institute over the course of 16 years found that as many as 40 percent of sexually active Americans have experienced a condom break. Family planning experts believe that roughly 3 percent of condoms break.
Condoms are practically a religious necessity in the post HIV-AIDS era, particularly among Millennials and Generation Xers. But condoms aren’t foolproof. They leak. They break. Which is why 15 percent of people who use them still get pregnant.
You might get lucky. Since it has happened at least five or six times to me, maybe it will never happen to you. However, just you are an unlucky soul like me, it’s much smarter to be prepared for the possibility of a ruptured rubber than to trust in the fates.
Odds are, you probably won’t realize your prophylactic ripped until it’s too late – i.e., after you ejaculated. So if – okay, when – it happens, what should you do?
There are two concerns: STDs and pregnancy risk. What you choose to do about each depends on variables like how much you know about your partner, whether or not you are monogamous, and the point in your partner’s menstrual cycle.
Let’s start with the STD issue.
First thing: after sex, take a shower and thoroughly wash your genitals with soap and water. Believe it or not, this basic step could help you dodge a bullet. Do not douche.
Reach around and make sure you get all the little pieces of plastic. Sometimes it doesn’t break in one or two pieces. You don’t want to leave that stuff in your junk.
If you lose a condom during sex with a partner with whom you are both certain that you are monogamous, and you have both been recently tested for standard STDs including HIV-AIDS, you probably don’t have much to worry about.
If, on the other hand, it occurs with someone whose sexual history you aren’t certain about and/or hasn’t been tested extremely recently, get postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a “morning after” treatment that can (but isn’t guaranteed) to prevent HIV infection. You take HIV antiretroviral meds for a full month. It’s definitely best to begin them immediately, but they can work up to 72 hours after possible exposure. Side effects include nausea and fatigue.
You can get it from any doctor, health clinic, AIDS organization, local health department, or hospital emergency room.
If you are a woman, you should more seriously consider a PEP treatment course than if you are a man due to the fact that HIV transmission is more likely from male to female than the other way around.
Morning-after pregnancy prevention, which used to be confusing and difficult to obtain in a timely manner, is now available over-the-counter in the United States. All women should keep the high dose birth control pill Plan B (cost $50 to $60 at most pharmacies), which is also known as emergency contraception, in their medicine cabinets so that it’s there in case of a condom accident. After the incident, take it as soon as you can, certainly under 24 hours later, but it can be effective if taken within 72 hours. Unfortunately, you have to be 17 years old or older in order to purchase Plan B without parental consent. You didn’t hear it from me, but if you don’t have understanding parents, this is a time to reach out to your older, cooler, over 17 friends.
If a condom breaks, there’s no need to freak out. For one thing, it probably won’t happen on one of the five days a month during which a woman can become pregnant. This is obviously a decision that you need to make for yourself, but if this happens to you outside of the so-called “fertile window,” the chance that you will suffer an unwanted pregnancy is slim to none, no matter what.
Most experts say you should both be tested for the usual standard battery of sexually transmitted diseases after something like this occurs, and that’s true, but the smarter, more relevant advice is to get tested regularly, especially if you and/or your partner are nonmonogamous.
Bottom line: Though obviously disturbing, a condom break is nothing to jump off a bridge over. They happen occasionally and the vast majority of the time – pretty much all of the time – no one gets an STD and no one gets pregnant as a result. Just make sure you reduce the chances of it happening over and over again, by using new condoms, not old ones, storing them in a cool place, investing in high-quality brands, and getting the right size.
I am tolerant.
I have Republican friends.
When racists speak in my presence, I don’t smash them in the jaw. I try to change their minds.
Many of my close friends and relatives believe in God, which is wrong and therefore stupid, yet I don’t consider them stupid — just mistaken. America, I believe, must create and maintain the space where a multitude of points of view can thrive.
But there are limits. Not every opinion should be tolerated.
If you think torture is OK — under any circumstance, for any reason — you are dangerous.
Pro-torture? You should not be tolerated.
If you believe that “they” had torture coming because “they” attacked “us” on 9/11, or because “they” chop off “our” heads, you are psychotic and sociopathic and should not be free to walk the streets, much less sit on juries or vote or drive a car or hold a job that a perfectly sane unemployed person needs.
If you diminish the exquisite horror of torture — if you think sleep deprivation and blasting loud music into victims’ ears and solitary confinement and stress positions and mock executions and beatings are not “really” torture — I want you locked up, the key thrown away, never to be heard from again. You are not fit to be near children or animals.
If you saw the Abu Ghraib torture photos and then voted for George W. Bush in 2004 anyway, you are Charles Manson crazy and there is no place in society, in America, on this planet, where you ought to be allowed.
If you’re a politician, a reporter or a pundit, and you’ve ever said anything in favor of torture, you should be fired and never heard from in public again.
I did not feel this way before the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on torture under the Bush Administration.
Over the last week, however, I have read thousands of pro-torture, right-wing loons post their monstrous ravings on Internet content boards. I have watched a parade of torture advocates go on television to defend CIA torturers, some with impressive-sounding titles, all treated respectfully by so-called journalists. I have seen Dick Cheney, Grand Inquisitor of the War Against Muslims, lie through his crooked teeth while scoffing at the most basic values of Western civ.
Now, already, I am watching torture fade from the headlines.
We have been too tolerant.
Anti-torture Americans — which is to say, sane, normal people — have been wayyyyyyy too polite over the past 12 years. We ought to have been rude. We should have shouted down the torturers and their supporters and apologists, ridiculed them, locked them away, fired them from their jobs, taken away their kids.
We debated torture; we didn’t reject it. Now torture is normalized — and so is the stupid meanness that goes with it.
In the mainstream media, the debate is not over whether torture is immoral or illegal, but whether it is effective.
We tolerate scum like ex-CIA director Michael Hayden, who justifies so-called “rectal feeding” — grinding a prisoner’s food into mush and shoving it up his ass — with rhetoric that is not only vile on its face, but insults our intelligence to the point that he ought to be banned from public life: “It’s a medical procedure is what it is,” Hayden told CNN. “I have learned that in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous things.”
Hayden is a liar. Victims of “rectal feeding” had not refused to eat normally.
Torture memo author John Yoo called them “aggressive interrogation methods that did not cause any long-term or permanent injury.”
Isn’t death permanent?
John Yoo ought to be in prison. Instead, he draws a six-figure salary teaching law (!) at UC Berkeley.
Jonah Goldberg is trying to pass himself off as a “reasonable conservative” by arguing for ambiguity: “One of the great problems with the word ‘torture’ is that it tolerates no ambiguity. It is a taboo word, like racism or incest. Once you call something torture, the conversation is supposed to end.”
In the West, civilized countries banned torture in the 18th century. In 1798, for example, Napoleon wrote that the “barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe.”
“Before the 9/11 attacks, torture was almost always depicted in television and movies as something that bad guys did. That’s not true anymore. The Bush administration may be over, but Bush-era terrorist torture and assassination policies are growing more popular,” Amy Zegart wrote in a 2012 Foreign Policy piece titled “Torture Creep.”
You need only look at the trend line to see how Americans are becoming increasingly morally depraved: At the height of the war on terror in 2004, when Bush was reelected despite everything, 32% of Americans said torture was never justifiable. By 2011, two years after Obama claimed to have banned torture, only 24% said the same thing.
Here’s some American exceptionalism for you: 59% of people in other countries have zero tolerance for torture. Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, says: “The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture.”
This is not a discussion Americans should have any more.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Even More Old Cartoons I Did About Torture That No One, Including “Liberal” Pubs and Websites, Wanted to Touch When It Might Have Made a Difference
Pretty much the only commentators talking consistently and passionately about American torture since 2002 have been a few cartoonists like me and Matt Bors, and the attorney-polemicist Glenn Greenwald. This week, as the MSM goes on and on and on about an issue they’ve consistently and passionately ignored, I’m showing you just a few of the cartoons no one wanted to run when they might have helped some Muslim with a CIA agent up his ass – literally.
This essay originally appeared at BreakingModern.com:
There once was a time during the 1980s when you could find a parking ticket on your windshield, crumple it up and drive off as if it had never existed. Nothing would happen. Usually. It was worth the risk.
But that time is no more.
I am often asked, to my considerable surprise, by seemingly intelligent people — people who don’t eat their own boogers, people who are capable of holding gainful employment — whether they can blow off and get away with a ticket.
My answer? NO! You cannot!
There are three relatively recent reforms in how municipalities handle petty offenses which make ignoring a parking or desk-appearance ticket (more on this later) a Bad Idea. They include rapidly escalating costs (for example, $75 if you pay within 10 days, $120 within 20 days, $200 within 30, and so on). There now are computer-linked “reciprocity” systems between cities and states (if you get a ticket while driving a rental car in California, they’ll know it was you — and you get slammed with a fine and points on your license back home in Texas). And they also include computer-issued arrest warrants if you fail to pay or appear in court.
You won’t even know they’re looking for you until a cop stops you for something else down the road and runs your ID. Then it’s all over. And it gets worse …Beer, Bench Warrant and Busted!
“A single beer put Patrick Lamson-Hall behind bars for 27 hours,” reported The New York Daily News. “The New York University grad student was slapped with a summons and a court date for drinking a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon on a West Village stoop.”
Turns out the 25-year-old Oregon native forgot about both until a pair of cops stopped him — it was months later — for riding his bike on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Within minutes, Lamson-Hall was placed in handcuffs, tossed into a squad car and taken to the 79th Precinct in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He was busted on a bench warrant over his failure to appear in court.
“I assumed they’d have me pay a ticket for the open container,’ said Lamson-Hall afterward. ‘It didn’t occur to me that I was going to spend the night in jail.’”
Lamson-Hall’s experience is hardly rare. One million New Yorkers — that’s one out of eight city residents — have outstanding warrants for similar “desk-appearance tickets” for offenses like littering or failing to clean their dog’s poo. The vast majority probably have no idea the cops are looking for them.
“Even if you feel that you were in the right, even if you feel that the summons is ridiculous, you need to come to court to resolve it because there are real consequences if you don’t,” says David Bookstaver, a spokesman for New York’s court system. Which brings us to:The Opposite of Bliss
A parking ticket, a moving violation like a speeding ticket or a desk-appearance ticket for a petty crime (like, soon in New York City, for smoking pot on the street), make sure you make that ticket a top priority in your life.
Ignoring tickets has quite literally ruined countless lives. Some people have even lost their cars and become homeless as a result.
Like in the movie The Terminator, the justice system will not stop, ever, until you pay, show up, or get exonerated.
Put that ticket on your fridge. Read it carefully. Deal with it first thing.Do You Need to Show Up? Probably, Yeah
There are two kinds of tickets: those that require you to show up in court and those that can be mailed in. Generally, bigger offenses, like driving 20 mph or faster above the speed limit, do require a court appearance. Minor ones, not so much. So read your ticket carefully to see if you need to show up.
If you have a scheduled court date, but can’t make it, you can usually have the date postponed. Call the court or check their website to learn the procedure for requesting a delay, or “continuance.” Living far away isn’t an excuse not to attend. I once had to fly from New York to central Nevada to attend to a speeding violation. This sucked. But it was what it was.
Before we continue with what to do when you get a ticket, however, let’s go back to something you should know before you get one:Rule Zero: Shut Up! This Cop is Not Your Friend
Citizens and residents of the United States — and tourists, too— have the right not to incriminate themselves. When a cop confronts or pulls you over, he or she is trained to try to get you to incriminate yourself. When a policeman asks: “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “Do you know why I pulled you over?” he or she wants you to admit you were speeding or whatever.
The authorities will use your casual comments and answers in court if you decide to challenge your ticket.
So say nothing. The truth is, you don’t even know why you were stopped. How could you? You don’t know how fast you were going. Speedometers aren’t precise; you can’t read the officer’s mind. Shut up. Use non-committal answers, like “I see.” If asked how fast you think you were going, feel free to claim you were going the legal limit. It’s not even illegal to lie to a cop in this situation and it sure can’t hurt.
Be polite. Keep your interior lights on and your hands on the wheel to avoid freaking out the officer. There’s no point arguing. If the cop asks you whether he or she may “just take a look” inside your vehicle, your answer should always, always be no.
Even if your car is clean, there is no advantage — none, nada — to cooperating.
Be nice. Sometimes that makes all the difference.
Okay, as you were:Should You Just Pay the Fine?
It’s tempting to send in your check and be done with it. Assuming you pay on time, the court will be satisfied. Regardless, if you decide to do this, be careful. I once got arrested on a desk warrant after Long Island Expressway police failed to credit me for payment for a speeding violation. Now I carry copies of my canceled checks in the glove compartment along with my auto registration! Live and learn.
Parking tickets should be paid promptly in order to avoid escalating fines or even nastier sanctions such as getting your car towed away or clamped by “the Denver boot.” Parking fines are typically relatively low, so it may not be worth it to take time off from your job or to hire a lawyer to try to get them reduced or thrown out.What if You Really Are Innocent?
Well, that’s an exception. It happens. I got a parking ticket once in Washington, D.C. Neither I nor my car were even there at the time, however. I appealed by mail, presenting proof I was in New York that day and that the model of car wasn’t mine. (The traffic agent probably miswrote the license plate number.) But whatever. I won.Why You Going to Court is Your Best Chance of Getting Off
If you’ve got several previous tickets and the time to spare, you can get real money knocked off by dressing decently and spending an hour or two in court. I recently got tickets totaling $240 for parking down to $100 just by showing up and explaining that I was confused by new parking regulations.
If you can afford it, moving violations should always be challenged in court, ideally by hiring a lawyer who specializes in traffic tickets in the relevant municipality. Mail appeals tend to be less successful. That’s because the days of getting a speeding ticket, paying it off and forgetting about it are long gone.
Worse, most states now have quietly passed draconian penalties for moving violations i.e. New York State’s “Driver Responsibility Assessment Law.” What this means is that you don’t just pay the fine listed on the ticket. Instead, you pay hundreds of dollars more, even if your license is from another state!
In Virginia, perhaps the most notorious state for this in the Union, speeding is often charged as “reckless driving,” punishable by a year in prison and a $2,500 fine, not to mention a criminal record that’ll follow you mercilessly for the rest of your miserable life.
And then the extra bill arrives in the mail, often months after you plead guilty.It Doesn’t Take Much to Get Your License Suspended. Get a Lawyer
These days, it doesn’t take much to get your license suspended. In New York, for example, a speeding violation of 20 mph or higher over the limit — say, 76 in a 55 — gets you six points on your license. If you get a second six-point violation within 18 months, they take away your driving privileges. And some auto insurers will jack up your premiums to reflect your need for speed.
In the long run, a lawyer will be cheaper than trusting your fate to the tender mercies of the judiciary.
Most lawyers will charge you less to represent you than you’d pay in fines in the aggregate. You won’t have to show up in court, which means saved personal days.
How can a lawyer help you after you’ve been nabbed with a ticket for something you actually are guilty of? Easy. Lawyers use several tricks to reduce your exposure. They may negotiate your ticket down to a minor offense, like a parking violation, that carries a lesser fine and/or no points. They might schedule your court hearing for a time when your police officer is on vacation, ensuring your case gets thrown out. (That trick, a relic from the old days, still works. Waiting for the cop to not appear in court.)
Or they repeatedly plead for a continuance until the 18-month period when you’re just one ticket away from suspension passes (the clock starts ticking on the day of the alleged offense).Can’t Afford a Lawyer? How to Act Like One …
If you can’t afford a lawyer — I advise you to beg, steal or borrow to pay one, but anyway — use the lawyerly trick of delaying your court date as long as possible. After your delays run out, show up in court yourself; some judges will reward your deference.
Ask if you can take traffic school to get your points eliminated.
And for God’s sake, drive cautiously. Don’t get another ticket until the passage of 18 months erases the points on your driving record.
Similarly, a desk-appearance ticket is a serious matter. If you’re found guilty, you could wind up with a misdemeanor — yes, a real criminal record! Again, if you have the money, hire a lawyer to work his or her magic. If you’re broke, show up. If you lose, pay right away.What Happens if You Don’t Pay?
This is not an option. Stop thinking like that! You are going to pay. The only question is when — now or later — and how much — a little or a lot.
Pay later, and you will pay a lot.
This is NOT one of those happy aspects of life that rewards procrastination.
If your failure to appear in court results in your arrest, you could be in for a singularly unpleasant experience, one that could even cost you your job or your life. A former roommate of mine got busted buying a small quantity of pot from an undercover narcotics agent in lower Manhattan. It was noon; he was at lunch. When he wasn’t back at his desk at 1 p.m., his boss was worried. When he didn’t show up for three days (long waits to be processed through the system aren’t rare, especially when there’s a holiday), he became angry — and he fired him.
Then there’s the public beer/bike on the sidewalk guy I mentioned up top. He spent a night in jail — one night in a solitary jail cell with no windows, no water and a broken toilet. Cops refused to let him make a phone call before vanishing for hours.You Probably Won’t Get Beaten Up in Lock-Up, But …
Yeah. I know. The Constitution is there to protect you. But in the real world, the Constitution often ends the second handcuffs hit your wrists. You’re probably not going to get raped or beaten in the lock-up, but if you need your meds to stay healthy — an asthma inhaler, say — you’re in deep doo doo if they throw you in jail. Standard procedure is to confiscate your drugs and ignore you when you complain.
This can kill people. Not that all authorities care. It’s procedure, like I said.
Even if the state doesn’t get all medieval on you, fines for non-payment are going to pile up exponentially. And thanks to sophisticated license-plate scanning machines that collect hundreds of millions of images per year for collection into a national database out of George Orwell’s worst nightmares, it’s only a matter of time before you get stopped and arrested … or have your car confiscated.
It ain’t fair. It ain’t right. But when you get a ticket, the last thing you want to do is ignore it.
My C-SPAN talk about my new book of Afghan war comix http://www.c-span.org/video/?321768-1/book-discussion-kill-will-welcome-back-honored-guests
yours truly in Kabul in 2010, researching my most recent book
NPR is begging for cash – and people give them hundreds of millions, even while they parrot government talking points. Meanwhile, throughout the Bush years – and the Obama years – independent political cartoonists have been some of the few commentators shining a light on the truth, speaking uncomfortable truths. No talking points for us. No comfy sinecures or $300,000-a-year paychecks (look up how much NPR talkers make). Just lots of rejection emails.
The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Jacobin, First Look Media, Huffington Post, Daily Beast – these “progressive” media outlets employ scores of writers full-time. Not one employs a single political cartoonist. The reason is simple: cartoonists are dangerous. (Also, progressive media editors are dumb. Cartoons are tip-top clickbait.)
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Thank you VERY MUCH for reading this, and for your support throughout the years!
Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:
Constitutionally-protected free speech essential to commerce? Hyper commercialistic eyesores and driving distractions? The Los Angeles billboard wars continue.
After digital billboards, what comes next?
For a hot second it looked as though Los Angeles’ ban on digital billboards – essentially giant televisions mounted on top and on the sides of buildings – had settled the matter. But a superior court judge struck down the ban as a violation of free speech under the state Constitution in October, kicking the issue back to the City Council. That rarely bodes well for a coherent solution anytime soon.
That said, there are a number of remedies to what critics describe as a blight of giant moving images reminiscent of the dystopian film “Blade Runner,” which incidentally was set in an L.A. that seemed to have crashed into Hong Kong during endless rain.
Among the possible solutions now being considered by council members are “sign districts,” outside of which digital billboards would be prohibited. However, the idea that seems to have the most traction at this point is to allow a certain square footage of new digital billboards in exchange for the removal of an equivalent, or greater, area of traditional static ones.
David Zahniser reports in The Times: “Clear Channel Outdoor said it favors a takedown formula that allows for new digital billboards. But it has been resisting the effort to scale back the locations where billboards could be permitted. If city officials are interested in eliminating a significant number of older billboards, said company spokeswoman Fiona Hutton, they will need to offer more potential sites for new digital signs.”
No one seems to be proposing an outright ban.
Since nothing in life is certain but death, taxes and advertising in increasingly – and annoyingly – previously off-limits public spaces, the future of digital billboards seems assured in Los Angeles. The only question is, how many will there be and how many of the old-fashioned ones will get taken down.
As a cartoonist who likes to consider possible future ramifications for public policy, I can’t help wonder about what comes next. America’s best minds don’t go into the arts or politics; they work for transnational corporations that hire other great minds on Madison Avenue to figure out how to sell us stuff that we didn’t even know existed, much less needed. Sooner rather than later, therefore, today’s wild and crazy digital billboards will become part of the scenery. Pedestrians, if they still exist, and motorists will learn to ignore them.
After digital billboards, what comes next?
There will have to be something new, and that something probably will include holographic projections that tower over the skyline. Ideally – in their thinking — companies would be able to transmit signals directly into our brains suggesting that we purchase their products. And when that happens, we will go through this process again, taking down ineffectual old digital billboards while issuing the right to fill the skies and clutter our minds.
Now that the Senate report on CIA torture is out, it’s clear that it confirms many of the assertions and reports that I and other dissidents made since 2001. At the time, however, and well into the Obama era, those of us on the left — there were very few of us, since Democrats including Obama continued to support torture and coddling of torturers — who beat the drum about torture and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were smeared as un-American, liars, terrorist sympathizers and pussies.
I was, and continue to be, blackballed by many print and online publications as a result. “Radioactive,” one editor-friend called me — because I oppose(d) torture by Bush and then Obama.
Now people like Richard Engel on MSNBC are saying that “America lost its way after 9/11.” Well, fuck that.
I never lost my fucking way. And I’m still paying a price for it.
Here are some examples of the work that I did back then, which was right, and was widely suppressed:
The condom broke. Now what? http://www.breakingmodern.com/ted-rall-protection-fails/ @BreakingModern