Sunday, August 30, 2009

CIA "torture" - let's tap the brakes a bit

I am surprised, somewhat pleasantly so, to see a reasonable and thought-thru op/ed in the NYT this morning regarding the politically-motivated and wrong-headed recent moves by our esteemed Attorney General. As you no doubt know, AG Holder is mulling the idea of investigating, and perhaps bringing charges against, some in the CIA who conducted or sanctioned "aggressive interrogation tactics".

This is a travesty, and it frankly pisses me off.

We've reminded ourselves, in these virtual pages, of the national mindset back in late 2001 and early 2002. The US had just been attacked and was, rightly or wrongly, staggered and very angry. It sure seemed like more attacks were inevitable, and potentially much more devastating. Suicide bombers in Times Square, dirty bombs in Washington, or pneumonic plague loosed in the nation's transportation system were all seemingly viable, and each was written and talked about by very serious people as very serious threats.

Just imagine you're a CIA operative working in a musty walled compound in eastern Afghanistan in March of 2002. A couple of Delta Force guys drag in what appears to be a high-ranking member of AQ, and it's your job to get real facts, or "actionable intelligence", out of this character. Maybe the CIA's internal grapevine is starting to heat up with talk of plans for the next "spectacular", and everyone from your direct supervisor to the DCI to your Aunt Gertrude in Cleveland is counting on you to turn up the one tidbit that blows the operation open.

You've got this AQ honcho sitting in front of you, maybe with a few cuts and bruises courtesy of the Delta guys, but mostly intact. He's grinning his toothy grin at you, because he's been told that you represent a sick and decadent society which does not have the stomach to fight back. Between smug smiles, he hints about some really juicy info he's got stuck up in his melon, and boy, wouldn't you like to know what it is.

You think about your wife, your daughter, your mom and dad, your first grade teacher, the kids in that third grade class in Topeka who recently sent a pallet of Mach III razor blades and Pop-Tarts to your buddies in the 10th Mountain Division, everyone back home who may be at risk.

Do you use the non-lethal tools you have arranged beside you? The Taser, the jumper cables attached to the Delco Marine battery, the tilty wooden table (aka the "waterboard"), the noisy power drill, etc? Or do you let Toothy the Terrorist continue to smile and say nothing?

Answer that question honestly. Would you really have moral qualms? Really? If yes, perhaps you're a better human than I am. Inflicting some fear, pain, and confusion on my friend Toothy seems a lot more morally defensible than not getting the plans for "Operation Black Death" out of the guy who, for all I know, cooked up the plan from the start.

So, here we are, eight or so years down the road. Nothing of consequence has occurred here in the US. Sure, AQ and their franchisees have spun up the scoreboard a bit in places like the UK, Spain, Bali, Iraq, Saudi, etc, but those places are far, far away. It's been quiet here. Why? Maybe its because AQ isn't as tough as we thought they were. Maybe it's because the 101st and the 10th Mountain Division did their bit in Anaconda back in 2002. Maybe it's because our fictional CIA operative gave ol' Toothy the good news with the business end of the Taser, or read him his horoscope while he was strapped to the tilty table.

I don't know why things have been quiet domestically since Sept 2001, and neither do you.

My point is this: We were all scared, some more than others - sure, and we were all pretty sure we had reason to be scared, back in the early Aughts. Our elected government (please, please, please don't bring up Florida and the 2000 popular vote - that got settled by our system, like it or not) reacted to the most devastating attack ever successfully mounted against American civilians in an American city by taking the gloves all the way off. Our fictional CIA operative had official sanction from the highest levels to do whatever necessary to get his subject talking.

To go back now, from the safety and holier-than-thou high ground of 2009, and threaten to prosecute our fictional CIA operative and his real-life counterparts, is so mind-bogglingly cynical, so transparently political, and so unfair as to simply take my breath away.

Look, I am a fan of Obama. I voted for the guy and would do so again tomorrow. But that does not mean I give him and his team a free pass, especially when they try something as disingenuous as this little stunt.

Dang, I'm madder than I thought I was!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Daily YouTube: Makes my head hurt

Draw your own conclusions:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Hangover: Instant classic

Saw The Hangover the other day, and loved it so much that I am compelled to write the very rare, much-sought-after CIT Movie Review on it.

Hilarious. Best comedy since Superbad. Better than Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin. Easily earns "instant classic" status. We'll be laughing over this one for years.

Everyone in it is great. Bradley Cooper is as instantly likable as he was instantly unlikeable in Wedding Crashers. The seemingly omni-present Ken Jeong (the outrageously uptight OB/GYN in Knocked Up) shows up again and reveals a lot more than his comedic timing. Heather Graham does well with limited screen-time. Mike Tyson completely recaptures his pop-culture cool factor with a single word: "Niiice!"

As the events from a forgotten night of debauchery are revealed to a threesome of severely hung over groomsmen, the laugh-out-loud moments come one after another. I was actually disappointed when the gang is reunited with the lost groom, not because it was poorly done, but because I was hoping the chase would last another hour or so.

The Hangover is not for everyone. There is more male nudal frontity than female, and none of it is attractive in the least. The gross-out factor is very high, with at least 3 on-screen, very realistic chunk-blowing incidents bringing groans from the full house. The language is off the charts, with more f-bombs per dialog line than anything since Pulp Fiction.

If you can fight through all that, along with a boat-load of boys-will-be-boys-especially-in-Vegas cliche, you will love this movie. I laughed throughout and am still laughing two days later. That's all I need to know.