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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Did ’24’ help Obama?

I’ve been watching with interest the whole Presidential race and election in the US. It’s obvious how jubliant many Americans are at the election of Obama as their new President. It is  fascinating  to think that this guy was such an outside contender for the position when the race first began – many people had never heard of him. At that time he was not really a prominent figure to the general public.

But a thought came to me the other night as I heard person after person tell reporters on news channels how much it means to them to have a black President (okay, yes he is bi-racial, we’ll just stick to black for this argument)  and how much it seems like a dream come true, that they hoped it would happen one day but didn’t imagine it would be so soon…I wondered, how much effect did the TV show ’24’ have in helping Obama get elected? Some might say none as it’s just a TV show. But TV does have an impact on the public consciousness. It’s happened with other social situations, as well as TV reflecting social trends.

So did ’24’ help to open people up to the idea that America could have a black President? For there are undoubtedly many, both inside and out of America, that would have said that America was not yet close to accepting a black man in that position. I think it ought to be considered that seeing a black President on TV could very well have done something to make it seem more acceptable to some of the general public. I haven’t heard anyone talk about this yet, and hope someone does investigate it more. It’s an interesting social study.

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The subject of torture has been in the news alot recently. I guess for most of us it’s not a subject that we give much thought to. The question of whether the  US has been carrying out Extratordinary Rendition, the practise of sending  suspects to foreign countries to be tortured, and the US use of ‘Waterboarding’ has been forefront (if you don’t have a clear concept of what is involved I recommend reading this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterboarding

Many people are horrified that any modern Western democracy would resort to such tactics to ellicit information, firstly on the grounds of humantiarian reasons, but also because it is blatantly hypocritical – the US is a signatory on the United Nations Convention against Torture. Rendition of course is the way to get around that, and there have been rumours for years that the practise was being carried out, and of course denied for years.  Former CIA agent Robert Baer has been quoted as saying  

 If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.

Now it would seem those rumours were founded on truth.

Perhaps, some would argue, the end justifies the means..Let’s take a look at that more closely.  We have to first of all ask

‘How useful is torture as a means to produce viable information in the interest of national security ?’. 

From what I have been reading, there does not seem to be any evidence that use of torture is as effective in producing viable information as governments would have us believe. Intuitively this makes sense – if you are being slowly drowned, are in extreme pain, and are desperate for your situation to cease, what are you going to say? You may be the sort of person who becomes more resistant to complying under coercion, or may be you are the opposite, and will say whatever you need to to put and end to your agonizing situation. In either case (and apparantely there has been research which shows the former does happen) the information is not going to be reliable is it?

There is also the consideration of the actual physical and psychological effects of torture on the mind. If you have suffered damage in either respect it is possible that your ability to recall information will be impared. So again – how useful or accurate will be any ‘information’ you ‘give up’.

Methods of torture have been devised, known as ‘Clean’ methods which leave no visible physicals signs of torture, but it doesn’t mean they are any more/less effective.

So is the use of torture ever really ‘justified’ if it can not be shown that it really does produce useful information ? Apparantely there have been a few statistical studies on this, but with little evidence that this is the case.`

But I am no expert on the matter. If you are, or have some knowledge to add to gaining more clarity on the matter please leave a comment. 

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I watched this with interest in full last night. It should have been called The MCain-Romney Debate.

Throughout the debate little time was given to Huckabee and Paul to answer questions. Ron Paul was cut off short more than once by Anderson Cooper, and towards the end of the debate Huckabee even became vocal about the appallingly unequal opportunity for him and Paul to contribute. 

OK, so McCain and Romney are in the lead in the polls out of all the Republican candidates, but why bother to even have Hucakabee and Paul up there if CNN didn’t really want them to talk?

What was also interesting was that Paul, when he did talk, seemed to be the only one willing to be honest about and want to tackle head on the core issues which Americans need to be addressing for their future. This is what he said in response to the question if he agrees that the US may need to keep troops in Iraq for the next 100 years maybe 

“I don’t even think they should have gone, so keeping them for 100 years, where’s the money going to come from? (APPLAUSE)

You know, the country is in bankruptcy. And when I listen to this argument, I mean, I find it rather silly, because they’re arguing technicalities of a policy they both agree with.

They agreed with going in; they agreed for staying, agreed for staying how many years? And these are technicalities. We should be debating foreign policy, whether we should have interventionism or non-interventionism, whether we should be defending this country or whether we should be the policemen of the world, whether we should be running our empire or not, and how are going to have guns and butter?…And we have these silly arguments going on about who said what when. I think it’s time to debate foreign policy and why we don’t follow the Constitution and only go to war with a declaration of war. “

(Transcript from  http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0801/30/se.01.html )

I’m not American citizen and so I won’t be voting in any elections, but I watch with interest to see who the American people will choose for their Republican candidate. I suspect McCain will come out on top – he seems to be the kind of guy Americans like to choose for their President, and boy did he lay it on thick about why he is ‘right’ to lead the country, based on his background. Will he be a Bush mark II I wonder…?

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