"Information is a liquid."
~ Mykl Wells

"Boo hoo. Please don't kill me."
~ George Bush mocking Karla Faye Tucker on the eve of her Texas execution

"By their fruits shall ye know them."
~ Jesus Christ

Let's Feed Barbarella to our Cannibal Dollies

Taking a look under the rock


The Punishment Chair at the Maricopa County Correctional Facility in Phoenix, Arizona, used by Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a disciplinary tool. Hooded prisoners are strapp
ed into a wooden "chair," wrists bound to prevent scratching. Inmates' trousers are pulled down, and the device is located over a toilet hole, so that immobilization can be continuous for 48 hours or more. This photo was taken in 2001, and was published in a Harper's Magazine article of that year titled "The Toughest Sheriff in America." The practice is not considered torture, and Sheriff Arpaio is sufficiently popular in Arizona that he has been encouraged to run for Governor.

The sexual torture of prisoners of war for information by the Bush administration has hit the radar screen like a ton of shit this week. But that is a redundancy. All torture is sexual. All war is necrophilia. And the Bush administration is us. Nothing is new but the ubiquity of digital cameras, flooding the common sensorium with our own nasty reflection as we sit tethered to the media, our eyelids wired open like the sadistic hoodlum in Clockwork Orange. The President speaks often of justice, and justice it shall be.

Surprisingly (for it is normally a deeply unconscious thing) the nexus of public attention is focused on the sweet spot where war, murder, rape, sadism, prisoner interrogation and the death penalty snap together in a single bloody crosshair. Bullseye. How long, I wonder, before we blink? Two days? A week?


It has been alleged that the coalition of Texas evangelicals and other neocon fundamentalists are actually trying to force the final showdown of Armageddon by fulfilling the signs detailed in the Book of Revelations. James Watt, back in the 80s when the first symptoms of this mindset began to appear at high governmental levels, saw no point in preserving forests of redwood trees from the particle board industry, given that the end of history was right around the corner. There is a perennial appeal to apocalyptic escape fantasies in which the human soul, clinging in blind faith to an ancient directive, somehow survives the wrapup of time and the packing away of the stage props of the creation, and is made privy to the meaning and purpose of the world. If the falling of stars from the sky, the emptying of the vials of wrath, the terrible inconvenience of the destruction of everything we hold to be real were the point of John's eschatological prophesy, the concluding chapter of the Bible would be titled The Book of Tribulations. Everything is destroyed several times over, to be sure, but John's end-of-the-world is not primarily about that. The Western myth deserves some credit here. It is about revelation, an unveiling, a bringing forth and presenting to the mind of things previously hidden. Notwithstanding that the hallucinatory confusion of its contents is no more intelligible for being drawn out of the shadows, it is a noetic event. Beyond the horrifically retributive triumphalism of fire and death, it is concerned with information. Given that revelations are always surprising and not always pleasant, it isn't unreasonable to assume that the finale of human history should take the form of a scandal, a debunking of the consensual myth, a tattletale story from a ruthless tabloid, in which the dirty secrets which underlie our lives are made public, revealing still dirtier secrets at even deeper levels. Could it be that when the scales fall from our eyes we will stand exposed not as children of the original Adam, not as the Buddha or the Christ within, but as something far sleazier, something more resembling Bob Guccione?

Before postmodernism wisely decided to look away from the potentially upsetting search for the "truth of things," people like Freud brazenly probed into the sources of human behavior. Granted that he came at this project, no less than Plotinus, as a child of his time, his psychoanalytical findings led him into the scary corridors of dream and pathology, coming finally to a language descriptive of the imps that drive the human mind, a conversation with the disturbing themes of sexuality, aggression, anxiety, death, neurosis, territoriality, excrement, incest and sado-masochism, the clinical twin sister of persiankitty.com, as the subterranean engineroom of the phenomenon of man, his culture and his history. The Neofreudian, Norman Brown, called such investigations the equivalent of the forbidden fruit. The insights it afforded, while relatively useless as therapeutic tools, so compellingly explained our religious and social institutions - work, debt, guilt, money, libido, repression, neurosis - that the truth of its paradigm could ultimately neither be denied nor tolerated nor employed for any purpose beyond pure contemplation. The shift of our gaze from such immaterial musings to the more immediate and pragmatic demands of our penises and stock portfolios might have been a response not so much to an absence of truth in the former paradigm as to an excess of truth, a bigger window than we really wanted upon the stygian landscape of our natural ugliness and the depth of our defining sickness. Which brings our discussion back to Donald Rumsfeld and the savaging of Iraq.

What is headed our way is not a posse of apocalyptic horsemen, but a pestilential torrent of digitized information, coming to us in the manner of Spring runoff, oozing out of our prisons and conference rooms, leaking from our electronic cameras and dvd recorders, seeping in and out of our cellular phones, spraying forth from our e-mail folders, pouring into our livingrooms from numberless weblogs, bursting out into newspapers foreign and domestic, surging past the sandbags of whatever contrived nonsense Rupert Murdock wants us to hear onto our television screens and coming to engulf us in a Tsunami of more than we ever wanted to know. Everybody's spies are everywhere. Up at the White House, the men-who-would-be-king, authors of the Total Information Awareness Act, are about to have their dream of omniscience come true. Are they ready? I don't think so.

It is doubtful that even the U.S. Congress can muster the ignorance it will now require to shut out the flood of discovery that is upon us. There is still brave talk of "getting to the bottom of this," of finding out whether the cancer of institutional torture is an operable tumor located in an isolated hellhole called Abu Ghraib, or a systemic disease riddling our terminally unwholesome society. We hear fighting words about looking into the ominous ranks of some 20,000 "private contractors" like CACI (information and communication specialists) and Titan (translation service providers) whose legions of bullet-headed interrogators have a preference for interviewing people who have been awake and naked all night with electric wires attached to their genitals, and thousands more "security contractors" like Blackwater, highly lethal bodyguards trained in South Carolina and fitted with black sunglasses and military weaponry to function outside even the restraints of the UCMJ at $1000 per man per day to protect Dick Cheney's business interests from angry mobs while they "rebuild Iraq." They're hopping mad up in Congress, I'll tell you. They want to know the status of the tens of thousands of "enemy combatants" being held incommunicado in secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq and Guantanamo and denied legal appeal or the humanitarian mercies of the Geneva accords. If we are raping and unleashing attack dogs on randomly arrested Iraqi civilians, what must we be doing to the hard core nasties we are holding in Cuba? And speaking of Rumsfeld's refusal to call the Abu Ghraib excesses anything more than simple abuse, what about these rumors of the CIA and Military Intelligence outsourcing our actual pulley and thumbscrew work to Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and the Philippines? What about Negroponte and the Honduran death squads? What about the horror stories from our own prisons, those Texas maximum security inmates who are treated like rabid dogs for years in radical isolation until they become insane? What's going on here, huh? This stuff needs to be investigated without delay. John McCain is fed up with this crap. He's looking for full and immediate disclosure.

Get real. We really, really don't want to know what is under that rock, and we aren't going to pick it up and look. And we know it. Just as I am staying up all night writing this invective, just as John McCain is lying awake dreaming of restoring America's honor, somebody back in Karl Rove's office is cooking up reasons to leave things the way they are. My guess is we'll shoot the Bald Iggle (anybody remember that?) once again. We'll hire firewall specialists, ban cameras from the military, regulate the internet, screw alternative paradigms into our brains, yank out our phone cords and burn our unembedded newspapers. We'll hurl new, mind numbing sitcoms at our dangerously awakening intellects, stab out our eyes and ears, yell yabbadabbayabbadabba until the danger is past.

Because otherwise it's time to pick up our little flags and come out onto our porches to greet the new liberator. Never mind the terrorists. The dreadful truth is coming to set us free.


Over 200 years of murderously self-serving behavior has concealed itself, in our society, beneath a thin and beautiful myth of moral superiority. And again today we are hearing a steady litany of baloney about the honor and selflessness of our soldiers, and how, as Americans, we hold ourselves to higher standards than the common run of folks. "This is not the America I know" says the Bush, in an assertion which means, I suppose, "this is not happening." The abuse and torture of prisoners in our chain of extra-judicial gulags has been blamed on a "lack of oversight" or a "breakdown in the chain of command." But this only says that, unrestrained by strict controls and left to their own instincts, out of sight of their mothers and school principals, Americans behave like sadistic pigs. What has been amply demonstrated by all of this, in spite of the panicy chorus of disclaimers, is that sadistic pigs is precisely what we are. We've taken the quiz and failed. We stand revealed in our own ugly nakedness, and we don't get to retouch the snapshots to make them look like something else, or pretend that we are merely seeing a momentary lapse of standards in our otherwise exemplary lives, or that we have stepped out of our true character for just a minute to beat a few prisoners to death because we forgot to whistle for Jiminey Cricket. Drawing a smiley face on a bag and putting it over our own head won't fool anybody at this point. The only two courses of action left for such flies as we have become are either to barge monstrously ahead until some providential intervention brings us down or to slink away in the shame and disgrace we have so undeniably earned.