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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today's rambling thoughts...................

I have been skimming (not reading in depth - just skimming) this whole "situation" with the tortures and the lawsuits against the independent contractors who flew the prisoners to the "torture site" and I am absolutely Gobsmacked about it all.

Why are they being sued? Did they actually know for certain (in the legal sense) that they were taking these fellows to be tortured? And even if they did, the GOVERNMENT paid their bill. I'm sorry but if the government tells me they will pay me to do something, I should be able to pretty much rest assured that it must be legal or at the very least that they won't come back on me in the future.

Am I wrong? Did the contractors have a legal obligation to do their own due diligence about the situation? The very fact that the government is buying their services should be enough to convince anyone that whatever they were doing was legal and that if, down the road, something were to blow up about it, that the Government would be the blowee NOT the contractor.

The same applies to the soldiers who performed the tortures. Now don't get me wrong here, I am completely against torture. I don't think these prisoners should be coddled but I also don't believe that they should be tortured either. With medical technology the way it is, I don't know why torture is even still in existence. Don't we have drugs that will render the user incapable of lying or something of that nature? I'm sure if anyone has such a thing, the government would be it!

But I digress, this post is not about the right or wrong of torture or flying someone down to be tortured. It is about putting the blame where the blame belongs and not sacrificing workers for doing what their bosses told them to do.

This is one thing that always bothered me about the Holocaust. I will admit that the Nazi hunters tried their best to go after the top dogs. However, they also went after the common guards and other workers who were doing as they were ordered to do. I'm sorry but if I have to make a choice between a stranger and my family, guess who wins? Hands down. No contest. This was not a normal everyday thing. This was during an intense war and I'm so sorry but things that would never fly during peacetime, should be overlooked (simple as that sounds) during wartime. Fry the bosses, not the workers!

The very same thing applies here. If I am in the military and my boss (or whatever they call them) gives me a direct order, I do it or I face a court martial and my life and career is ruined.

Now I do know that there is an out in extreme circumstances for these soldiers that allows them to refuse a direct order if that order is contrary to military law but seriously do you think if you are in the midst of battle and far away from any JAG office for protection (provided they would even give it) and surrounded by men who are willing to follow these orders (and they are armed) that you are going to stand up and start spouting from memory whatever article it is that allows you to refuse to obey a direct order? I'm guessing not. I know I wouldn't. What would be the use of it? They would shoot you and call it "friendly fire" or some such nonsense. There is a time and place for everything and starting a heated debate (solo) against men with guns is neither the time nor the place.

I'm not even sure that I'm okay with punishing the soldiers who went overboard with their orders to torture. If indeed one can go overboard with torture. Torture is torture. To me it really doesn't matter to what extent you take it. Once you begin to torture, everything after that point is still torture. How can anyone say for example that waterboarding is okay but stripping the prisoners down and humiliating them while taking pictures of them is NOT okay? In my mind, once you get a person involved in a grisly act (such as torture) and they get caught up in it, should you punish them for taking it to excess? YOU wrote the script for this movie...can you honestly complain when the actors improv? I mean seriously.

Article 3 of the Geneva Convention states "that even where there is not a conflict of international character the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: noncombatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (this would include water boarding)
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment (this would be the stripping and taking pictures part)
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

So, my problem with all of this (sans the torture part) would be that these people are being thrown to the wolves, so to speak. They were following their orders and they did as they were told and now they are being sued and arrested and their lives ruined but the very people who paid them and/or gave them their orders are still vacationing in their summer house in the Hamptons and living their lives as if none of this ever happened.


Am I the only person who sees this? Am I the only person who believes that if a soldier or independent GOVERNMENT contractor is doing exactly as they were ordered and it is later discovered that what they were ordered to do was illegal, the person who signed the order should be punished???? Am I?

Baby Bush and his Klan took full advantage of the country's panic and rage over 9/11 for years thereafter. Anytime, Baby Bush wanted to do something constrictive or hateful, he would throw in the "war against terrorism" thing and whatever he wanted to be done was done! 99% of the crap he pulled would never have flown had 9/11 not happened and he knew that. Sometimes that very fact almost gives the conspiracy nuts a touch of credibility.

Let's touch on that subject for a second (or two). Conspiracy nuts. I completely believe in conspiracies. I really do. I'm not stupid enough to think that guys like Baby Bush kick and scream their ways to the top of the power chain and then sit around and have tea.

I know that once they get there, the real struggle begins in order for them to STAY in power. Climbing the ladder is sometimes much easier than staying on top of it because when you're climbing it you have a little bit of anonymity that you simply don't have when you are on the top of the ladder and everyone is looking up.

You know that someone below you who is trying to climb that ladder will eventually reach the top at some point unless they are kicked off the ladder so you have to constantly be on guard and figure out ways to kick the hardest climbers off the ladder unobserved.

That's where the conspiracies come in. They've been around for centuries, I would bet since the beginning of time. Didn't Abel have his own little mini-conspiracy when he killed Cain and then lied about it? He in essence kicked Cain off the ladder so he could be on the top.

So, I believe there are conspiracies. The problem I have with the conspiracy nuts is that they see conspiracies everywhere. If they go to McDonalds and order a quarter pounder without pickles and they get home and there are pickles on it, a conspiracy is born! I'm not at that point. To be fair to them, I can understand that once you start researching these conspiracies, you might tend to become a touch overly paranoid about everything. Still, they creep me out.

I guess I'm like the average Joe running around the country. I know conspiracies exist. I have witnessed many many of them in my lifetime (Davidian Branch, President Kennedy's assassination (and that of his brother), the assassination of MLK, Jr., Bay of Pigs, the unofficial Colombian war, just to name a few)but I don't wig out when I get pickles on my cheeseburger. Like I said, I'm not at that point yet.

So, to close this tirade, let's punish the order givers rather than the order takers. Let's find out exactly who WAY up the chain of command came up with this bright idea and let's severely shorten his chances to vacation at the Hamptons (if you get my drift). I think with all my heart that until (and unless) we show the big dogs that they will be held accountable for their decisions, this is only the tip of the iceburg.

Think about it. If I am in a powerful position and I'm thinking it might be a good idea to take these guys to some isolated place and torture them and humiliate them just to see IF they have any real knowledge that could help the country and I know that if that turns out to NOT be a good idea it's no big thing because I won't get punished, some poor working class smuck will go to jail for it, I have NO motivation to even try to think this through. No motivation.

Like a child with the cookie jar. If my mother is one of those "whatever" moms, what's my motivation for not ruining my appetite by scarfing down several cookies before dinner? None. BUT if my mom is a no-nonsense by the rules mom, I'll definitely think twice before I climb up on that stool and reach my hand out for the cookie - you can bet on that.

Our country (and every country) needs to be run like the no-nonsense by the rules mom. If you know the rules and you choose to break them, you WILL BE PUNISHED - I don't care WHO you are. And I believe that the higher up in the government you are - the more severe should be the punishment. Those with more authority also have more responsibility to not only know but stringently observe the rules.

But then again, here come the conspiracies. It stands to reason that the more authority you have, the more secrets you know and if they punish you too much, you might just "slip" and tell some of those secrets. All we have to do for proof of that point is look at the mob debacle. Once the government got close, rats came out of the walls en force!

In conspiracy land, that would account for all the suicides and "accidents" that have befallen many a politician in our country's history - and their girlfriends (anyone remember Marilyn?)

So what's the solution? There is none. As long as people are in power, there will always be corruption and conspiracies and murders and theft and abuse. The only thing we can ever do as humans is try our best to align ourselves with the people who are most likely not to fall into these traps.

It's obviously not a foolproof solution as nearly everyone can be had for some price. Either by money or blackmail or intimidation or offer of power or whatever. Most of us have our price. The few folks that I am aware of who could not be had, have been executed or met with untimely "accidents".

Examples would be Sir Thomas More (my personal favorite) or William Wallace or for a more common man, how about Kareem Bellamy, a common man who spent 14 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit. He could have been paroled but he steadfastly refused to admit to something he didn't do.

Although he is alive and well, I have included him on this list simply because he could have admitted to guilt and been released. Freedom would have been his price, but he couldn't be bought.

Can you imagine the things he has missed because of his refusal to be "bought"? He missed his children growing up, he missed the everyday simple things we all take for granted like privacy, talking on the phone whenever he wants, going to the mall, going to McDonalds, watching a ballgame in person, wearing whatever he wants, being completely alone whenever he wanted to be.

There are many others in history who fit into this category. Unfortunately, most of them never had a movie made of their lives or books written about them or even still many (if not most) of them never even made their choice not to be bought public knowledge choosing rather to live their lives privately.

How about Frank Serpico? This man is one priceless man. No one was going to buy his silence. His life would have been much easier had he chosen to turn his head but he did not. It nearly cost him his life, but he pushed on.

We need to hear more about these kinds of people in the news. We don't. We hear about the crooks and the thieves and the murderers.

The "press" is now more jaded than the politicians and evangelists in this world. They outright lie, they embellish the truth with prejudicial adjectives and headlines. They NEVER follow up and on the very rare occasions that they are called to task for their frequent misreporting, they print the retraction (if indeed there ever is one) in very small print WAY in the back somewhere next to the ads for fertilizer. They also are hair trigger quick to report that someone has been named a "person of interest" and they go on to post their photograph and their address and all manners of private information about them but then when it is determined that person is not at all a suspect, we never hear about that to the same extent, if at all.

I am all about freedom of speech and freedom of the press and even freedom of religion. However, when you abuse that freedom, you need to be held accountable. These people act as though these freedoms give them carte blanche to say and do whatever they feel like saying and doing. It does not! There are safety nets in place for this. Your freedom ends where another persons freedom begins. They conveniently forget this fact.

I can truly say whatever I want to say as long as I stress that this is my personal opinion. I cannot color it to imply it is fact or that I have proof of it. I must state that it is my opinion. The newspapers, magazines and TV networks do not do this anymore.

At one time, journalists were admonished about including personal adjectives to a story that might in any way color the readers or listeners opinion of the matter. At the end of every newscast would be an editorial piece that lasted a minute or two but that was as close to editorializing as they got. Now? All bets are off. The news spends more time on the sex life and dressing habits of stars than they do about what's going on in our world these days. Then on the off chance that they do throw in a piece or two about world events, it's always full of images of crying injured babies or dead bodies or some racial strife. They keep things fueled at all times. It sells papers I guess. But then again, it also hardens the people who see and read it too.

We wonder why the world is in the shape it is. A large part of it is that we have all become jaded. We have all become obsessed with getting our 15 minutes of fame (at any cost).

Turn on the television to nearly any channel at any time and you will see a show "starring" some unknown person about their daily lives. Or about their weight loss "journey" or about their dating quest. Your second choice would be to watch a show filled with cops and murderers and lawyers and bad guys. Your third and final choice (on commercial TV anyway) would be to watch a show filled with nurses and doctors all about their love life and the back stabbing politics of their jobs with a patient or two thrown in for good measure. I choose to watch premium channels or movies.

There have been some extremely good, well written and well acted shows that have come out on commercial television. However, they didn't make it very far with some having been canceled before the 4th episode (one was actually replaced with reruns of the Bachelor). There were 2 in particular that I got so hooked on and couldn't wait for them to come on. Those would be Jericho and The Riches. Those that were not so lucky were shows like Daybreak (replaced with reruns of the Bachelor after only 4 shows), Life on Mars, Smith (called the worse show on TV after 3 shows - how can you tell it's the worse show on TV after only 3 episodes? Would this say that Snoop Dogs "reality" show is more elite? Or that Kimora Lee Simmons show is more stellar? That's a scary thing!

However, back to The Riches and Jericho, with a LOT of letter writing and screaming, they were given another season but then we were left out in the cold with no wrap up show or anything to show for our loyalty. Just an end. Is that how you treat loyal viewers? Really?

I remember when the Fugitive, MASH, Friends, Six Feet Under were canceled. Their final shows wrapped it up for us. It gave us endings and let us know what happened to the characters that we had invested so much time and energy in. It gave us closure and left us feeling sad that it was gone but satisfied because they respected our loyalty enough to wrap up the story lines. Those days are long gone.

And commercial television has the audacity to whine about the drastically dropping numbers of viewers who are going over to premium television! Are they really that stupid? To me it's crystal clear. Who in their right mind would rather pay an extra 12 bucks for a premium channel than watch a commercial channel that they can get either for free or for an extremely lower rate within their basic package? I can tolerate the commercials just fine. Everyone I know could. No on that I know of has switched away from commercial television because of the commercials. No one. We all switched because of the CONTENT. Commercials are fine with me. It gives me time to grab a drink or go to the bathroom or answer the phone or whatever. I actually prefer having commercials so I don't have to miss any of my show while I'm letting the dog outside. I certainly would rather watch commercial than premium for the price but there's nothing on those channels that I would watch anymore (exception being Desperate Housewives and Dancing with the Stars).

Programmers, newspapers, magazines, politicians, law makers and enforcers are all lowering their standards and we are not only allowing it, we are encouraging it by our passive behavior.

But that's just me.

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