June 2010 Archives
Developed for the Whitney Museum of American Art's first-floor Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Gallery, A Reasonable Man in a Box takes its point of departure from theÂ "Bybee Memo", a controversial 2002 document signed by Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, and declassified by President Obama in 2009. The document discusses acceptable methods of "enhanced interrogation" of a high-level Al Qaeda operative, including the use of a confinement box. As Whitney curatorial assistant Nicole Cosgrove writes in the introductory text, "A Reasonable Man in a Box explores the perversion of reason, and the malleability of language and law. Using video, collage, and text, Magid transforms an international and political issue into a physical and intensely personal experience. The installation represents an artist's desire to engage a legal memo--and her government--in dialogue, and to unlock a closed system of clean-sounding legalese with a single rhetorical question."Â
I often think of the lobby gallery at the Whitney Museum as a place where visitors kill time while waiting for the elevator and where art goes to die. For now, it is a place where one goes to be tortured--or is it? In August 2002, two justice-department officials advised the CIA and President Bush on the use of "enhanced interrogation." At the Whitney, Jill Magid asks one to study their language and to experience the results. Is it torture? Ask, as the title has it,Â A Reasonable Man in a Box.
One may not feel very reasonable facing the projection on the far wall. One recognizes the object of terror from its curled tail and fur, although the roach-brown glow may evoke a New Yorker's familiar object of disgust. A scorpion of nearly human dimensions crawls along the floor, sometimes dipping or tunneling within. A reasonable man might find the promise of insects within the walls that much more frightening. Another wall holds selected or censored lines justifying torture of someone with pathological fear of insects. The rest of us will not be reassured.
The tortured legalisms are frightening enough all by themselves. The memo, signed by Jay Bybee and drafted with John Yoo, explains how to play upon a subject's expectations without taking responsibility for what the prisoner knows. And never mind what he experiences or how he reacts. Suppose the interrogator has silently substituted a mere caterpillar. Suppose the interrogator just happens never to have mentioned that the insect might or might not cause harm. See no evil, speak no evil.
Common law does not have to deal with torture, but it limits liability for damage or negligence, even to the point of death. When the law speaks of aÂ reasonable man, it most often has in mind not the victim, but the cause of harm. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., put it, one can demand no more than reason, because of the impossibility of "measuring a man's powers and limitations." The Bybee memo goes through cold, concise contortions to make a prisoner's helplessness sanction unlimited power. This, no doubt, is why Yoo now teaches at a school as elite as Berkeley...
more about the installation here
Torture Connection:Â Designing and implementing CIA torture methods
Guantanamo Protestors (Image Credit: Rysak / WTTG)
Saying that "In my opinion, the defendants were not properly charged in this case," D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan today acquitted 24 activists of unlawful assembly in connection with civil disobedience this past January 21Â at the U.S. Capitol.Â
Press release here
John Eastman--the former Chapman University law school dean whose most famous education maneuver was bringing his pal and disgraced Bush torture memo authorÂ John YooÂ to the private Orange institution to pollute future legal minds andÂ defend himself--wanted to dupe voters by being listed as "assistant attorney general" or "special assistant attorney general" in campaign materials and on the June 8 Republican primary ballot. - OC Weekly
"And so while my campaign for Attorney General ends this morning, the campaign for our agenda does not.Â We must restore feudalism federalism, fight unconstitutional pension spikes, fight illegal immigration, protect marriage, defend small businesses from excessive regulation and litigation, and; comprehensively, restore the constitutional limits on government, to bring our state back." -Â John Eastman
Berkeley students, are you blind?Â
Yoo counseled them yet retains tenure at BP's Berkeley campus.Â
The findings contained in theÂ 27-page report, "Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the 'Enhanced' Interrogation Program," is based on extensive research of previously declassified government documents that shows the crucial role medical personnel played in establishing and justifying the legality of the Bush administration's torture program.
For those who have closely followed the details that have surfaced over the years related to the Bush administration's torture program, some of the information contained in the report has already been painstakingly documented by Marcy Wheeler at her blogÂ Emptywheel, and Truthout's own Jeffrey Kaye on his blogÂ InvictusÂ and in articles published on this web site and atÂ Firedoglake.
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Events & Calendars
Important ReadingPhysicians for Human Rights
Broken Laws, Broken Lives
NLG White Paper
ON THE LAW OF TORTURE...
The President's Executioner
Detention and torture in Guantanamo