Undo – it's doable now!

Politics:

Were you in favour of the war in Iraq? Check Bush’s “entry” speech here. Andrew Sullivan is embarrassed that he fell for it. I would be too! I’m proud that my sister and I actually took part in an anti-war demonstration – none of us being people normally given to demonstrations.

Bush has no regrets, apparently. Bush’s legal councel John Yoo, who wrote the infamous memo that “allowed” torture, isn’t either. Read about it here.

Obama made an appearance on the Jay Leno show. That’s a first. He managed to make a blunder and had to apologize profusely. Why is it that nobody seems to be able to take an innocent joke for what it is?

Writing/blogging:

An interesting post about why we (yeah, well, some of us) so urgently feel the need to share our thoughts with others.

Web:

Microsoft tries to explain what their new privacy settings are for. It’s close to funny.

Kottke.org has this interesting story about how much revenue the “was this review helpful to you” question on Amazon generates.

If you have heard or read any tech news today, you already know this, but here goes anyway. A Godsend to every Gmail user. Now you can un-send your messages – as long as you’re quick!

Health:

Why am I not surprised? (Why alcohol makes you feel good).

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A “dunk in the water”

The above is a quote from Donald Rumsfeld. And no, he wasn’t talking about his latest holiday by the sea or one of his grandchildren falling into the pool.

He was referring to waterboarding. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an “interrogation technique” which the top of the American administration has allowed to be used in Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Get a definition on Waterboarding.org or on Wikipedia.

Picture from Waterboarding.org

The top guys in Washington did their very best to cover their tracks and make it look like the ideas for waterboarding and a number of other “interrogation techniques” came from the bottom: the soldiers and officers stationed at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan. But luckily there are people out there, some of which are even journalists, who have been digging through heaps and heaps of documents and uncovered the paper trail, which points directly to Rumsfeld and Bush.

An army of lawyers have been deployed to “legalize” these interrogation methods, which are most certainly not allowed in the Geneva Convention. Or in the American constitution…

Two lawyers at the Justice Department’s office of Legal Council came up with this brand new definition of torture: Physical torture occurs only when the pain is

equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death

and that mental torture requires

suffering not just at the moment of infliction but… lasting psychological harm.

These quotes are from a memo written by the two lawyers Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now teaches law at Berkeley!!!!!!!). The quotes are from an article in Vanity Fair by British law professor Philippe Sands. It’s a very long article (8 pages), but well worth reading.

A shorter article, to some extent based on the findings by Philippe Sands, is on today’s BBC Online.

Presidential hopeful John McCain, who consistently claims to be against torture (he himself has been a prisoner of war) voted against a bill proposed to the senate about banning waterboarding and other kinds of torture. Article in New York Times.

Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama (or Barack HUSSEIN Obama as all the right wing newsletters and blogs scrupulously write) made this statement last year about torture:

The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer – it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration’s approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America’s standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It’s time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It’s time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning. When I am president America will once again be the country that stands up to these deplorable tactics. When I am president we won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution, we will be straight with the American people and true to our values.

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No Europeans/Americans seem to be suffering…

… so I keep my money in my pocket; or what else is the reason for the missing donations towards the disaster in Burma???

I can see that the excuse is that the regime isn’t letting the help through. And of course that’s horrible. But some of the international aid organisations like Save the Children are already inside Burma and they are litterally pleading for more donations. So why don’t you donate some of your surplus right now!

I was thinking about the not-exactly-necessary things I’ve bought within the last couple of weeks. I won’t tell you all of it, because, frankly, it’s pretty embarrassing, but I’ve bought some handkies for my husband, a wall calendar to keep up with school holidays etc., white tea to satisfy my spoilt tastebuds, a cute shirt for Dane, Vanity Fair and eh, probably a lot more. So donating a few pounds towards people in real need hasn’t exactly bankrupted me! Nor will it bankrupt you, I suspect…

The next issue of course is what to do about that awful regime down there?!? Handing Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi the Nobel peace prize didn’t exactly do the trick, did it? And the international pressure seems to be making no impression on the generals whatsoever. Small wonder, when the bulk of “international pressure” seems to be directed towards the “evil regimes” in the middle east (and then there’s North Korea). China, who is the Burmese regime’s primary protector, is probably at the core of the problem here. Because the world leaders seem to be more than reluctant to put any kind of pressure on the Chinese, no matter if it’s about their oppressive regime at home or the protection of others’. Did you know that a good deal of the war in Iraq is actually financed by China? Well, it is, because China is lending money to the US on an scale hitherto unheard of. Read here and here. And now China has to deal with it’s own catastrophe, the earthquake. The timing couldn’t be worse!

On a favourite American news site of mine, Slate, they argue for a REAL “coalition of the willing”. Namely countries who are willing to intervene on behalf of the Burmese people against their leaders. France & Germany – have another go, please! And Britain – join a coalition that’ll do the world some good for a change. That goes for you too, Denmark…

Pictures from the New York Times

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Baseball

Yesterday was about baseball. Our host Matt is a devoted fan of local team The Boston Red Sox and has been since he – like all good American litterary heroes – as a little boy was taken to the stadium on hot Saturdays by his father. Matt took us on a tour of the old (1912) stadium Fenway Park in the middle of Boston, and it was great fun to get an insight in this sport, which you invariably come across if you ever watch an American film, read an American book or browse an American newspaper.

The weather was lovely and the female guide far above average as American guides go, she clearly wasn’t paid on a words-per-minute basis. We browsed around the Red Sox merchandise shop, approximately the size of a middlesized supermarket back home. There really is no end to the fan gear you can purchase there. And there’s something in the air that really makes you want to buy the stuff, heavily overpriced as it is. We resisted the urge, having already received Red Sox-stuff as presents from Matt and Jackie and having bought a few caps and a t-shirt earlier in the day at Wal-Mart at a far lower price.

The air was heavy with anxious anticipation, because later that evening The Boston Red Sox were playing a very important game in Cleveland, Ohio, determining their fate in the series. They’d apparently done pretty badly in the previous games, so spirits were a bit low. But lo and behold if they didn’t win! For David, Dane, Emil and me it was our lives’ first baseball game and it was fun to watch it in the RV, eating crisps and drinking beer. Dane fell asleep after a while and a little later also Emil. I couldn’t fall asleep, since my seat was so bl…. uncomfortable, and I could surf a little and read a little during all the commercials (which really is what kills you) and David almost managed to sit through it, only dozing off during commercials. As David put it, half of the commentary was double dutch to us, but the general idea of the game dawned on us. And we had to admire the Red Sox pitcher who saved the game. He was SO cool! Watching him chew his gum, spit, look completely stonefaced and then throw the ball with astonishing speed and curve, so the Cleveland Indians practicallly never hit it, was absolutely worth the sore bum I had afterwards.

If any Americans with baseball knowledge read this: What is it with the spitting? They all do it – all the time. The coach more so than any of the others. What on earth is it good for?

Today it’s really warm, but raining. The boys have gone fishing again, I’ve been reading Vanity Fair, a luxury I’m warming to considerably. Compared with your average monthly fashion magazine, it certainly takes a long time to read! OK, the print is very small and clearly not intended for middle-aged women with bi-focals. And the language is not exactly easy. But, wow, it’s rewarding once you find the peace and quiet to read it. I read a hair-rising story about the involvement of a Halliburton subsidiary in the Iraq war. It was so well researched, and so disquieting! The American tax payers certainly have reasons to worry! It really doesn’t matter if you’re for the war or against it. Nobody can be in favour of private companies overcharging the American government by a routine 500-1000% for services rendered? If you have the patience to read 8 pages online, start here.

There’s also an article by Christopher Hitchens of whom I’m not usually a fan. But this one is good and strangely touching. The Shakespeare quote towards the end certainly provoked a few tears. The article is about how Hitchens finds himself partly responsible for the death of a young man in Iraq and how he deals with this emotion. Pretty good.

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