Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Surnow appears to be an egotistical, empty-headed loudmouth -- though I'm sure people who lean to the right could read the piece, which is called "Whatever It Takes," and was written by Jane Mayer, and come away feeling that Surnow is an outspoken defender of all that is good. The part of the article that is most interesting, however, is the middle third, when Mayer discusses a visit to the set of 24 by Gen. Patrick Finnegan, the dean of West Point. Along with Finnegan were "three of the most experienced military and FBI interrogators in the country," and the group came to "voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers."Yikes. It's a scary thought, but according to Finnegan and others, 24 is quite popular among cadets at West Point as well as soldiers in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan, where DVDs of the program circulate widely. One interrogation expert, who was deployed overseas, said, "People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.” He added, "In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence." The FBI expert said, "Only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected. You don't want people like that in your organization. They are untrustworthy, and tend to have grotesque other problems."
On TV, Jack Bauer is always presented with the "ticking bomb scenerio," in which getting key information from the bad guys immediately can prevent the loss of thousands or millions of lives. The truth is more complex. First, that situation rarely, if ever, happens. Second, torture rarely, if ever, gets usable information from suspects. In the context of those facts, is it then worthwhile to follow a course that will, in the end, produce little information, eventually scar the interrogator and, as Gen. Finnegan added in the story, hurts America's image around the world?
For his part, Sutherland is said to be upset at the possible fallout from the actions of his character and also "bored with playing torture scenes." He has condemned the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as "absolutely criminal," and is being asked to appear personally at West Point or in a training film to emphasize that his show is purely entertainment and should not be emulated. Surnow, of course, said, "They say that torture doesn't work, but I don't believe them." I disagree with his position, but what infuriates me is the arrogance of a person who dismisses the input of others -- as well as facts and figures -- so callously. The army interrogation expert said, "They have this money-making machine, and we were telling them it's immoral." Unfortunately, the first half of that assessment is the only part that carries any weight.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
What does all this have to do with Romney? He is, after all, married to one woman and he disassociates himself from polygamy. One has to go back into the great-grandfathers and beyond to find Romney forefathers who had more than a single wife. While Mitt himself should not be guilty by association, I'm guessing that a lot of Christians will be wary of voting for a Mormon, and the main reason will be that religion's association with polygamy. I think, therefore, that Romney's candidacy is already doomed.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I've been quite disillusioned with professional sports for years now, only really giving my attention -- and only a bit of it -- to the Sox. There are too many other interesting, cool, funny, engaging and important things going on in the world, so it is hard for me to watch grown men acting like fools, whether owners or players.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Such philosophical discussions -- often called Socrates Cafes after the title of a recent book encouraging their creation -- are springing up around the country. There are monthly meetings in Cambridge and Chelmsford, and when I was living in Maine I attended one in South Portland. I have often dreamed of hosting some type of salon -- gatherings of people to discuss ideas, politics and art like those popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. We should, I think, look more closely at ourselves, our relationship to others and to the universe. "The unexamined life," Socrates said, "is not worth living."
In my attempt to live a more Thoreauvian lifestyle, I've been going for a walk each day. Yesterday I spent some time at the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, ambling about and taking some photographs. Belle Isle, which straddles the borders of East Boston, Winthrop and Revere, is a salt marsh, and the water levels rise and fall with the tides. It's also beneath a flight approach for Logan Airport, which is less than a mile away from the marsh. When the wind is blowing from the northeast, aircraft will come in quite low over Belle Isle at the rate of about one per minute.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
From French writer and philosopher Voltaire, a few words that can be applied to the history of some religions, as well as to America’s current situation in Iraq: “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”
British statistician and economist E.F. Schumacher wrote: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.”
And finally, writer Kurt Vonnegut keenly observed: “For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
Let's get going, gov.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Currently, Sorkin is the force behind another show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and while it might be a bit short of The West Wing at that show's height -- though the episode "Nevada Day, Part 1" was damn close -- Studio 60 is witty, lively, moving and funny. Check it out Mondays at 10 on NBC.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Well, I noticed today that the location is now occupied by Boloco, a Boston-based burrito chain. I had visited the Somerville O'Naturals a couple of times and definitely felt it lacking in the atmosphere that is apparent in Portland. Seems I wasn't the only one. Too bad. I was hoping they could recapture that spark.
There is another Massachusetts location in Acton, and also one, strangely, in Wichita, Kansas.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Meanwhile, people around the world are hungry, homeless, sick, tortured and ignored, but you want find much, if any, of that on the evening news.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Mack is upset because Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez, doesn't make nice with the US. He even called George W. Bush "the devil" at the UN last year. No one is saying that we all have to agree with Chavez's socialist politics when we purchase his oil.
I'm sure that if Mack were up here in hearty New England and unable to pay his heating bill, he'd refuse the oil from Venezuela, right? Just like he refuses gasoline from Saudi Arabia, which is run by corrupt extremists, or Russia, controlled by the tyrant Putin.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Lynn location is the Gulu-Gulu Cafe and it's pretty cool. They also have a nice web site. There aren't too many spots north of Eastie to get a latte and an equal dose of funkiness within a 20 minute drive, so a place like Gulu-Gulu is welcome.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I ran into Mike Barnicle about three years ago. We chatted briefly and then I asked him about that particular column. He remembered the incident and even the name of the firefighter that he focused on, which was cool.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Maybe it's some side effect of global climate change or industrial pollution, or maybe it's a non-native mite or disease, but whatever the cause let's hope it doesn't wipe out all of the honeybees in the US. Not only will a catastrophe such as that cause a number of problems, but it could be a canary in our collective coal mine.
It's unconscionable, then, that our government should not be prepared to offer the necessary services that our military people need and deserve when they come home, but that is what often happens and there is a Boston Globe story today about the sad result for one young man.
It seems like a tax cut for the well off is more important to George W. Bush than taking care of the people that he put in harm's way.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I'm always impressed when I see cars stopped at a red light late at night when there is clearly no traffic coming across an intersection and no law enforcement around. It's proof that our society is holding together by some shared sense of right and wrong. On the other hand, when young people march off to fight in a war without questioning their elected leaders, I feel like there is too much blind subservience to authority in our world.
Some would say, of course, that morality is handed to us by a higher power, but I long ago gave up ascribing credit or blame -- or anything else -- to anything except physics, chemistry and the machinations of human beings.
Friday, February 9, 2007
The American military says that an air strike Thursday killed 13 insurgents, but Iraqi officials said that 45 civilians died in the attack. The actual numbers are likely some combination of those two, but there is no justification for innocent people dying because they happen to be near the targeted individuals.
The photo shows a boy reportedly injured in the attack. Reporters on the scene also saw the bodies of children killed by the air strike. But hey, we could all do what US Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt suggested Americans do when they see images of dead Iraqi civilians on TV: "Change the channel."
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
In America we focus on the use of illegal drugs when it seems that the legal stuff is causing just as many problems. Why do our young people need to be on so many meds? Does the clout and ubiquity of the pharmaceutical industry have anything to do with it? Didn't we survive as a species for 200,000 years using natural herbs instead of these manufactured pills?
Look at the recent comments by a Tufts doctor on the subject of multivitamins that so many people take. There seems to be little evidence that they work. As is true with most health-related issues, the bottom line is to eat your vegetables, go easy on the meat, drink in moderation, don't smoke and exercise regularly.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Saturday, February 3, 2007
It's a long article, but what is more important than what we eat? Note especially the nine rules at the end of the piece. One of them is, "Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food."
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Late in the film, which took the Oscar for Best Picture, a young cowboy says of a man that he just killed, "He had it coming, right?" Clint Eastwood's grizzled and weary gunslinger pauses, looks out over the landscape and says, "We've all got it coming, kid."