Technology and Soullessness

From a post by “Adam” on rec.arts.movies.production: (ADR is “Additional Dialogue Recording”).

> That’s a lovely story, Darrell.
Most US TV sound guys are probably in a navel-gazing clique entirely of their own, these days. Like, Bowie 30 years ago had mics at different distances to enable a seamless in-synch transition to shouting. Those were the proud analogue days, not populated by kids twiddling knobs as today.

These days ADR is often done with a headset, which effectively eliminates inherent nuances such as dynamics, head movement effects, distance cues etc etc, and has the problem of unreal or too-consistent quality. In other words, what started as a simple desire or need for good voice quality, has resulted in a homogeneous voice sound, equivalent for all speaking characters, always perfect, and this detracts from the “suspension of disbelief” which arguably these media are all about.

My point is, that US TV sound in particular, and US film sound secondarily, is mostly homogenous pre-digested pap. The excessive use of feeble underscores (Lucas films, et al), laugh tracks (all US comedy), over-explanatory dumbed-down scripts, are all peculiarly unattractive American qualities. Murch and a few others are great, of course.

Interesting story though, Darrell.
I don’t blame the sound guys for uncreative boring unreal work, its the mindless producers that ask for it, and they’re often glossy simplistic ex-advertising types. How that execrable Numb3rs ever got off the ground,

I’ll never know.

Its certainly no Art, its a mass market product targeted solely at teens after all, and no-one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the target market.

“Al Qaeda a bigger Threat to the World Than Hitler Ever Was” – Manchester Union Leader

The Manchester Union Leader is a newspaper. This is a newspaper that might like to regard it self as sober and rational and intelligent. This newspaper insists that the “war” on terror is “the most difficult and challenging war we have ever faced”.

Okay. The other wars include World War I, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, and the Cold War. Small potatoes compared to a 2-bit Arab millionaire hiding in the hills of Tora Bora.

The editorial went on to question whether the nation could afford to have a president (McCain) who isn’t willing to torture people. We want a torturer. Can you torture? I will vote for you. Because I want a torturer.

[Note: now that the so-called compromise Senate bill has been revealed, it turns out to be more of a cover-your-ass bill than a genuine concession to the Geneva Accords. No real protections, legal or otherwise, are extended to the prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay or anywhere the U.S. may have renditioned any person any 2-bit bureaucrat might have decided is a terror suspect.]

This is ridiculous. The U.S. has faced more than a few military opponents over the years, nearly all of which have actually carried out a war against the U.S. All of them were genuine threats in one form or another.

Well, now that I think about it, Viet Nam obviously was never the threat it was sold to us as– it did collapse and the world continued to spin as it did before. No dominos.

Panama.  Oh.  No dice.

In the five years since the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, there has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Not one. Not a single one. Not one. None. Zero. If you believe the government– and you know how conservatives just automatically trust the government– they have nipped several conspiracies in the bud. I happen to believe that not a single one of those conspiracies was anywhere near the stage of realization.

Yet the Manchester Union Leader believes that the U.S. is more threatened now by Al Qaeda than it was by Germany or Japan or even the Communist Block at the height of the cold war, with their thousands of missiles pointed right at us.

Remember the communists? Remember the thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us, and ours at them? Remember the Cuban missile crisis? Not as scary as the “Lackawanna 5”, I guess.

It is a dire threat indeed that does not manifest itself in five years. The Bush administration gingerly tested the idea, recently, that the reason for this is because of Bush’s brilliant successes at rooting out terror. Right. Just as, if the police doing their job well, a large city could expect to have no murders or thefts or break-ins. Seriously.

The real agenda is the oil and the tax cuts and deregulation and running up a deficit so the progressives won’t be able to afford any new programs when they finally do take office.

But since most people eventually become dimly aware of how bad Bush’s other policies are, the only way to sell them on this government is to convince them that there is this horrible war going on out there and if you don’t vote for Bush, they’ll be coming to get you, right there, in Duluth and Peoria and Gary and Orange County and Iowa City.

What they are doing seems contrary to all reason and common sense. It is contrary to all reason and common sense. And it doesn’t seem to matter. We want our government torturers. We believe they are out to get us. We have lost our minds.

When does Bush cross over into “big lie” theory? At a meeting with conservative columnists last week (why mess things up with someone who might ask hard questions), Bush insisted he had absolutely no doubts about the rightness of his decision to invade Iraq. Surely no matter how conservative you are or how loyal to Dick Cheney, you would have a doubt or two when your actions now result in the deaths of 3,000 people a month, and torture, and mayhem, in a nation you thought you could rebuild into a Western-style democracy in a “cake walk”. No regrets?

The theory of the big lie is that if you pretend to have not the slightest doubt that what you are saying is true, a large number of people will assume that it must be true, because it would be inconceivable that someone would lie on such a grand scale. How could they get away with it?

And from the ‘what is, “is” ‘ department, this gem also from the Union Leader:

Let us be clear that we do not advocate torture. We advocate that the law be written to protect CIA officers from criminal prosecution if they use certain techniques that could be interpreted as forbidden under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

“Certain techniques”. “Play rough”?

Just how many more euphemisms do we need before Americans can advocate torture with a clear conscience?  This is a shitty little dodge by the Union Leader to avoid using the more accurate word: torture.

More detail: The Bush administration has authorized six “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” to be used by the CIA on only a dozen al-Qaida members. The techniques include grabbing a prisoner’s shirt and shaking him, slapping, slapping the stomach (punches are not allowed), extended standing (which might include sleep deprivation), containment in a cold cell, and water-boarding.

Water-boarding? By golly, sounds like surfing! Slapping– no punching– someone might get hurt there, boys. “Extended standing”? That’s easy. You just tell him to stand there. And stand. And if he stops standing, you make him surf, or slap his face, or grab his shirt. Oh, the horror!

Manchester Union Leader Advocates Torture

On September 17, the same newspaper said this: If playing rough with a captured terrorist can save lives — and there is strong evidence that it can* and has — Congress must not forbid it, no matter what the Supreme Court has said.

How nice. Another euphemism for “torture”. They are not torturing anybody– they’re just “playing” rough. Like little boys, wrestling around in the den.

If these editorialists had any guts and any integrity and any morality, they would use the word they do, without any doubt, mean. They want to allow the CIA and the military to torture people. Torture, torture, torture. They want our men to be brutal and violent and absolutely diabolical, because they think that will help us win war on terror.

The editorial writer should publish his name so we all know who is willing to torture.

Aside from the enormous, insurmountable question of morality, history seems to suggest that the long term damage to the west’s credibility and respect will far exceed the benefits of obtaining information that won’t be trustworthy anyway.

An Oddity

I’m not advocating this– torture is wrong under any circumstance, at any time, and any place, and no matter what you call it. But it is curious that the Bush administration wants the cover of law. Why not do as has always been done: leave the law alone, but know that your men in the field will occasionally take liberties– as they did at Abu Ghraib prison? As they did when they trained torturers for Pinochet in Chile? Those men will understand that if exposed, the government will not protect them. They are on their own. In the meantime, they understand– too well, so it appears– what their superiors really want.

The fact that the Bush administration won’t go this route is compelling evidence that our leadership now consists of true vampires.

In fact, the best evidence is to the contrary.  Firstly, people will say anything to make the torture stop, so you cannot know if what they are telling you is accurate or not.  Secondly, some prisoners become more stubborn and more determined to not cooperate if treated badly.  Thirdly, the pertinent issue is that you will inevitably torture by mistake someone who is innocent and who really doesn’t know anything.  Fourthly, you will have innocent victims because when you torture other people they will volunteer any name they can think of if they think it will stop the torture.  Fifthly, you have no legal defense against any nation that decides to torture American prisoners of war.  Sixthly, your boys will deny that they gave any information away at all under torture.

Well, number 2 and number 6 cannot both be true.



Torturing the Pharisees and Scribes

Church Groups Getting Ready for the Election:

Evangelical Christians in the United States, by an overwhelming margin, support George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in this election which means they support their policies which include torture.  They can’t hide from this: evangelical Christians support the use of torture to deal with terrorism.

I think every conservative, evangelical, Hillary-bashing congregation should dedicate at least one Sunday this fall to an in depth discussion of how Jesus would torture the Pharisees if he really, really needed some information from them. Suppose they were holding Mary and Peter hostage somewhere.  Or or the Holy Grail.

So, how would Jesus torture?  Cattle prods? Water-boarding? Sleep-deprivation and beatings? What would Jesus do? The results could be collected into a position paper and presented to George Bush at one of those frequent prayer breakfasts or other meetings

Conservatives love emergencies. That’s when they get to take control. If you let them. They thrive on fear– because they assume that others are prepared to do to us what they are prepared to do to others.

The question Al Qaeda has to ask itself is, “where is America’s oil”.

The answer: right below your feet.


The Psychotic Judicial Torturer Theologian of the United States

Richard Posner is a judge on the United States Court of Appeal, 7th Circuit. Take note: this man is a standing judge in the United States. If you were arrested and tortured by the police, this man might end up hearing your appeal.

Richard Posner had just published a book called “Not a Suicide Pact: the Constitution in a Time of National Emergency”.

Okay, let’s start with the “National Emergency”. Personally, I think that two terrorist attacks in 10 years doesn’t quite constitute a “National Emergency”. Posner thinks this emergency is so dire that the government could and probably should suspend most civil rights, spy on everybody, torture prisoners, and, if Congress would kindly agree to it, allow the President to do whatever he thinks will attend to the emergency.

Now a reasonable person might ask what the definition of “National Emergency” is. This is a very important thing– since Posner seems willing to embrace the most repulsive human behaviour imaginable– torture– because we have one. A “national emergency”.

One would think it would mean that the survival of the nation was at stake. Too melodramatic for you? All right. One would think there would be sustained and continuous attacks on American citizens. One might think there were bombs going off in our streets, roving squads of masked, armed men, kidnapping and torturing people. One might think the economy was imploding under the pressure, that regional governments struggled to function, that hospitals were over-crowded, that bomb-shelters were filled to capacity, that people in the streets of Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh, felt fearful of their personal safety because you never knew when another terror attack would take place, that air traffic was snarled because of all the bombs, that politicians were being assassinated….

Obviously, the nation actually appears to be prosperous, peaceful, and orderly.

If our current state fits Posner’s definition of “National Emergency”, it is easy to see that any government could at any time, by his standards, declare a “National Emergency” and invoke all those delicious powers to detain, spy, torture, and arrest journalists.

I’m quoting from the review in the New York Times: “coercive interrogation up to and including torture might survive constitutional challenge as long as the fruits of such interrogation were not used in a criminal prosecution.”

It’s an odd rationale. If the “fruits” (one calls to mind Billie Holiday’s extraordinary “Strange Fruit”, written by Abel Meeropol, who adopted the children of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and that’s another long, long story…) … where was I? Oh yes. If the “fruits” of an interrogation using torture should not be used in a criminal prosecution (of the person being tortured), as Judge Posner recommends– think about this carefully if you think you are or should be a responsible citizen– then he is actually advocating the use of torture against people who will never be adjudicated to be anything but innocent by any official, legally constituted authority. Geez, it’s hard to keep this simple. Again, since these persons would never be legally convicted of any crime, according this actual U.S. judge, what we have is a government that uses force, that imprisons and tortures, whenever it feels the need to.

This government is unlimited and unaccountable.

The government, then, is committing crimes.

Posner is saying that he, as a judge, would excuse this government.

I am saying that this government cannot have any legal or moral legitimacy. It may be overthrown. It should be overthrown and we should start over again with something called a “democracy” and a “constitution”.

What if a group of concerned citizens agreed with Mr. Posner, but decided that it was necessary, for the survival of civil liberties, and constitutional government, and human decency, to seize this judge, hold him in a cell, and waterboard him day and night until he agrees to rescind his expressed opinion? Why shouldn’t they? Mr. Posner has already provided the rationale. The safety of our freedoms and liberties is at stake. There is no need for due process, or even for a constitution, in this circumstance.

Mr. Bush is seeking legislation to cover his stinking tail on the issue. He knows, better than anyone, that, until and unless this legislation is passed, he has no legal cover. He only has friends like Richard Posner.

The only thing that makes feel better when I go to sleep at night is the unfounded confidence that some day in the future–maybe even the near future– President Bush will be remembered sneeringly as the President who tortured.

Will a Democratic candidate for president in two years stand boldly in front of the electorate and declare loudly, clearly, and proudly, that his administration will never use torture?

And when is some politician going to summon the guts to demand the impeachment of Richard Posner: how can you leave someone on the bench who cannot imagine why it might be wrong to torture people?

Even if most Americans don’t mind torturing people– as long as they don’t have to conduct the messy, violent, repulsive acts themselves, personally, with a cattle prod or whip– it’s quite another thing to stand proudly in front of your neighbors and say, I voted for the guy who tortures.

He’s Not Totally Crazy

Posner’s Position on Marijuana:  Well, let me put it this way. I don’t really see the case for picking out marijuana among a huge variety of mind-altering substances ranging from, you know, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, but above all, you know the prescription drugs. You know, for all of the illegal drugs, there’s some kind of prescription alternative. You know, it could be Valium, it could be Paxil. So given that, you know, mind-altering substances are a part of our culture, it seems to me the people who want to continue the prohibition of the sale of marijuana should explain. Well, what is special about marijuana that, you know, it deserves what’s now heavy criminal penalties for sale of substantial quantities. Maybe–maybe there is a case. I’m not an expert on it, but I haven’t heard the argument.  (From a University of Chicago website)