Monthly Archives: April 2009

Just How Bad is American Journalism?


Many moderate and even liberal journalists are calling for a free pass to all former government officials, especially top-ranking White Housers (aka, Dick, W. and Donald). The problem, I believe, is that if we have an honest investigation into the enhanced interrogation program we are bound to learn the disgusting truth behind torture and about the “Wag the Dog” activism key members of the establishment press played in promoting disinformation in furtherance of the government’s illegal activities.

One thing that has bothered me over recent weeks has been the extent to which the mainstream press has promoted or even allowed to be promoted two notions: first, that torture could be a vital and necessary means for protecting our national security; and second, that White House and government officials may at times be above the law. The sum of these two, as attempts to rationalize or even exculpate torture, equate to an outright admission that the government did in fact engage in torture. Continue reading



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Just How Bad is Spanish Journalism?


Here we go again. Today in an article in the major Spanish daily El Mundo on how the Feria de Abril (a yearly festival in Seville) is being celebrated in Beijin, Rocío Sáez ,with what I assume to be the permission of El Mundo’s editorial staff, dubs the event the “Feria de los ojos rascados” or the “slanty-eyed” version of the Feria.

We can argue to death whether this is racism (yes, you can be racist without intention), gross cultural insensitivity, or pure ignorance. But no one can deny that after the entire debate last summer about the Spanish men’s olympic basketball team’s gesture towards the Chinese, reported in El Mundo, you have to wonder just how dumb the El Mundo staff must be to fall into the same trap. Or just how poor the state of journalism must be over at El Mundo these days.

I am also getting tired of repeating this over and over again, but we are not caricatures.

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The Cosmic War


Today I was listening to an excellent interview podcast from the Leonard Lopate Show with Reza Aslan, author of the recent book How to Win a Cosmic War. If you have the time, I definitely recommend you listen to it in its entirety.

Mr. Aslan’s fundamental argument mirrors something that I have been repeating over and over again recently — mainly that the language and actions of the “War on Terror” have essentially created a fanatic religious and ideological war by the Christian West that mimics that of the so-called Islamist terrorists.

Later in explaining why Muslims have greater difficulty integrating into European society than in American society, Mr. Aslan argues, as I have in the past, that Europeans do not distinguish ethnicity from nationality. Thus, the only way to truly integrate into most European nations is by abandoning one’s previous culture and fully adopting the local one. In other words, one must become indistinct in Europe in order to belong.

On the other hand, American identity was founded on a political ideology (as articulated in The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution), not prefaced on an ethnicity or culture. Thus, one becomes “American”, not by assuming a language, religion, or way of life, but by buying into the American Dream, no matter how illusive that may be.

The immediate result is that there is a greater sense of alienation and disenfranchisement amongst Muslims in Europe, thus making Europe a more likely breeding ground for those so-called terror threats.

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Monk Elaborated


Thelonious Monk is one of the most creative, unique and enigmatic figures in the history of Jazz. Monk is often associated with his eccentricities, in particular his long periods of silence and his use of silence in his music (as I have written about before). This morning I read a blog post in El Mundo about a handwritten letter Monk had written to saxophonist Steve Lacy. It reveals a slightly less silent pianist and thus gives us some greater insight into Monk and his musical philosophy.


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Torture: More Borrowing from the Chinese


A recent story in TIME magazine tells the extent to which the Rumsfeld Department of Defense had knowingly used torture to interrogate terrorist suspects in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Time story also explains that

Opponents of last week’s release of memos detailing CIA interrogation techniques argue that they will provide enemies of the United States with a training manual to prepare their operatives for capture. The irony is that the U.S. military appears to have done the exact opposite, taking a training program that had been designed to prepare American soldiers to withstand torture by communist regimes seeking to extract false confessions and twisting it into a highly controversial interrogation manual.

I recently wrote about the absurdity of these opponents’ argument in that the presumption of anyone, whether inside or outside the U.S., should be that they will not be mistreated when in U.S. custody. Thus no one should ever have to prepare for questioning by U.S. authorities.

And guess what? The Bush Government did not only borrow money to finance its tax cuts and wars from the Chinese. It also borrowed heavily from a Chinese handbook on torturing Americans as the basis for U.S. interrogation training program.

The final irony: the torture techniques around which the [torture] training was devised were used by Chinese interrogators during the Korean War, not to gather actionable intelligence but to force false confessions from captured U.S. soldiers — confessions that could then be used in anti-American propaganda.


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The WiFi Router that Killed WiFi Everywhere


Like the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, it looks like the WiFi router may kill the WiFi network. Let me explain.

First, congrats to Iurgi and the guys at FON (where I used work) for the new La Fonera 2.0, a WiFi router that also doubles as a remote downloader, allowing you to upload or download files independently of your computer. In other words, you can upload or download files to and from the Internet without slowing your computer down or even turning it on.

What does this have to do with FON, the WiFi sharing network? FON’s entire raison d’être is to give users free, ubiquitous WiFi access throughout the world. The idea was that users, by contracting for DSL at home, should also have access to the Internet whenever they are away from home. This was to be achieved by installing FON’s special WiFi router – the La Fonera – that permitted users to share their WiFi connection with other users, thus creating a ubiquitous, user-generated WiFi network. The problem was that the network wasn’t growing fast enough, and the existing network was unreliable (users turned off routers when not using them and there was a limited network to connect to).

As a solution to the problem, the La Fonera 2.0 was intended to jump-start the FON network by getting more people to (i) install a WiFi sharing router and (ii) keep that router online even when away from home. Here comes the irony: Continue reading

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Eugene Robinson Wins Pulitzer


Eugene Robinson, who I consistently cited during my own annoyingly biased coverage of the 2008 Presidential Elections, has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Congratulations to Mr. Robinson!

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In Dick We Trust


Former Vice President Cheney, in reaction to the recent declassification of the torture memos, has defended the previous administration’s actions by claiming that the CIA interrogations provided the government and the Vice President with essential information. Because that information has not been revealed to the public, for obvious national security reasons, we’re just going to have to take Dick’s word for it.

That must be the Cheney Doctrine. We’re just going to have to trust the government. From everything from WMDs to domestic surveillance, Dick thinks we should just believe him. Sorry, but the truth has to remain classified.

But what we have learned since 9/11 is that prior to the attacks, we already had all of the actionable intelligence needed to stop the attacks. It was institutional inefficiency, not the absence of torture or the Patriot Act, that kept us from being safe. Thanks to Dick, though, each and any of my communications (phone calls, emails, letters), as a U.S. citizen living abroad, are subject to warrantless searches by the government.

And if I were a non-citizen, according to the Dick Doctrine, the U.S. government should be able to kidnap me from anywhere in the world, hold me incommunicado indefinitely, and interrogate me as harshly as his lawyers deem necessary. The information, fruit of the interrogations, will be invaluable to our national security, in Dick we trust. How do we know that the non-citizen isn’t some ordinary Joe? We can’t tell you that either, but in Dick we trust.

All I know is that there were no WMDs in Iraq, the great majority of those held in Guantanamo were released without being charged of anything, and Exxon Mobile is now the most profitable company in the country.

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The State of the Discontented


Over the past few days, throughout the news, I have heard a series of arguments and complaints about the U.S. government. While I agree in principle that there are many areas in which we need to voice our concerns, so far most of the criticisms towards the Obama Administration from the Right – on taxes and spending, the environment, torture, and piracy — have been either hypocritical or downright silly. Instead of writing an individual post on each subject, I’ll summarize them here: Continue reading

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The Gathering Dumbfolk

I had not seen the ant-same sex marriage “Gathering Storm” ad until I read about “The Bigots’ Last Hurrah” by Frank Rich in Sunday’s New York Times. The ad, produced by the Nation for Marriage, is so very bizarre that it’s almost an immediate parody of itself. And of course there are many parody videos already out there, including one by Stephen Colbert. But my favorite is the one above.

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